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Holiday Spirit Requires a Healthy Mind, Body, Spirit!

Happy Holidays! It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with great hope and faith. People of many faiths take time to reflect, respect, and resolve. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights, when one night’s oil provided enough light and safety for 8 nights. Both major faiths promote healthy lifestyles for the mind, body and spirit. These faiths are grounded in hope, faith, love and peace. It is no surprise that studies repeatedly demonstrate that people of faith outlive those without!

With this in mind, I purport, that to be truly healthy, one must have faith because complete health is multidimensional. Socrates preached this message to his students thousands of years before Christ. One must have a healthy mind, which requires intellectual stimulation with attainable goals related to education and intellect. One must have a healthy body by eating well, engaging in physical activity and have attainable goals related to his/her body. Likewise, one must have a healthy spirit with faith, hope, prayer and meditation, comrades and counsel, and set attainable spiritual goals.

5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality

How being religious or spiritual has been shown to benefit your mind, body and spirit…

Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …

The health benefits of religion or spirituality are well documented.  One study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Greater Sense of Satisfaction

Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.

Greater Tolerance for Adversity

In an impressive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.   

Stronger Immune System

According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.  

Greater Longevity

Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate, unprotected sex, etc. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our "Health Care Forum"

Paul J. Mackarey, PT, DHSc, OCS

The human body is designed to defend against foreign bodies such as germs, bacteria, and viruses, including COVID-19. A healthy immune system may foster a speedier recovery from illness. While you may not be able to improve an otherwise healthy immune system, you can take steps to maintain its health and integrity.

A healthy immune system protects us by creating a barrier that stops invaders or antigens, from entering the body. When an unwelcome invader slips through the barricade, the immune system responds by producing white blood cells and other chemicals and proteins that attack the foreign substances.

10 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Immune System

  1. Don’t Smoke – it is obvious why this tip is critically important 
  2. Eat a Mediterranean Diet – high in fruits and vegetables, fish/seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes, extra virgin olive oil and minimal amounts of red meat.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight – body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy. To calculate your BMI:
  4. Drink Plenty of Water … and Drink Alcohol in Moderation 
  5. Get Adequate Sleep – 8 hours is a good goal but if not possible, supplement with a daytime nap
  6. Practice Good Hygiene – Avoid infection by washing hands often and thoroughly. Flossing and brushing your teeth is also important
  7. Prepare Foods Properly - clean meat/fish cutting surfaces and cook food thoroughly
  8. Limit stress and Be Positive - make time to reflect and meditate and, when possible, avoid people who “suck the oxygen out of the room!” YouTube “Progressive Muscle Relaxation” for easy to use relaxation techniques
  9. Be Active – physically and mentally – keep your body and mind moving and when possible spend time outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of NEPA
  10. Exercise – BUT DO NOT OVER EXERCISE! While exercise is an essential part of a healthy immune system, over exercise can weaken your immune system. In fact, many marathoners report a mild fever and flu-like symptoms after running the 26.2 mile race.  

Prevent Cabin Fever While Confined to Your Home 

Is there a secret to a long and healthy life? Do genes control our destiny? How does lifestyle impact our health? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while genes play an important role, lifestyle plays the biggest role on how healthy you are and how long you live. The food you eat, what you drink, if you smoke, how active you are and how you handle stress are critical factors that determine your longevity. The NIH research has found that smoking, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits are the leading causes of death, in that order.

To maintain a healthy immune system, physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days per week can greatly contribute to longevity. Most experts agree that moderation is important. If you overindulge with exercise you will be at greater risk for musculoskeletal injuries. This is especially true for those who are newcomers. The goal is to gradually work into a fitness program and maintain it for life…now, during home confinement; it may be a good time to begin.  

Researchers have found that the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous. Some of the more important benefits are:

    Simple suggestions for beginning an exercise program at home

Sources: WebMD.

     Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.      

     Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

Next Week: Learn some simple home exercises using Resistance Bands.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s "Health & Exercise Forum" every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.