Exercise – How Much is Enough?

You know how important good nutrition is for your health. And you’ve heard plenty about getting exercise.

How much physical activity do you need? And is it really so important?

First, let’s talk about why you should be physically active.

There’s strong evidence that physical activity can lower the risk of many ailments, such as …

heart disease


type 2 diabetes

high blood pressure

high lipid levels

colon and breast cancer

metabolic syndrome



We have good evidence that exercise can decrease the risk for lung and endometrial cancer. It can also decrease the risk for hip fractures while increasing bone density.

In children, exercise promotes muscle and bone strength, and in older adults it can mean better cognitive function.

There certainly are a lot of good reasons to be active. How much activity is enough?

2 ½ hours a week of moderately intense exercise (or 1 ¼ hours of vigorous aerobic exercise) is suggested for adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years. Healthy older adults (without a chronic medical condition) and pregnant women should try for this amount of exercise as well.

Children should get an hour or more of moderately intense exercise each day.

Is more better? In most cases, yes, if you don’t overdo it. The more physical activity, the greater the benefit.

What’s even more important is that some physical activity is better than none. Any moderately intense activity that you do for at least 10 minutes, counts!

If you’re just starting to exercise, don’t overdue it. Start slowly. Choose an activity that’s practical and enjoyable. In fact, enjoyment is the most important factor in ensuring the long-term success of your exercise routine.

To learn more about exercising, go to this website, sponsored by the US Department of Health and Services, for lots of helpful information.

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Weighing In – Beyond the Scale

Take four women. They’re all the same age, the same height and the same weight. But they each wear a different size dress – ranging from a four to a twelve.

Seems odd, right?

But it’s not uncommon. That’s because weight and height alone don’t determine the size of your body. Fat and muscle also count when it comes to your size. And your health as well.

More body fat + less muscle = larger dress size

Less body fat + more muscle = smaller dress size

More fat, especially when it’s around your waist, can also put you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

How can you add more muscle to your body and eliminate extra fat?

If you just cut calories, you’re likely to lose weight. But you’ll mainly lose muscle, not fat.

Exercise is the only way to gain muscle and lose fat.

Is dress size the best measurement of body fat? Not really.

A simple bathroom scale measures the main components of your body – bones, muscle and fat. Since bones don’t change much as adults, you’re mainly getting a measurement of muscle and fat. But there’s no way a scale can give you a break down of just how much of each one you’re carrying around.

A special kind of scale, called a body fat analyzer, measures body fat. Some give your total weight and percentage of body fat. More expensive models measure the weight of your muscle as well as fat.

If you have access to a body fat analyzer (there may be one at your medical or sports center), it’s good to know your percentage of body fat.

Women under the age of 45-50 should try to keep their body fat around 20-25%. As you get older, muscle mass decreases, so 28% fat is reasonable after age 50, and 32% after age 65.

Men, on the other hand, are healthiest with 18-25% body fat for most of their lives.

Weigh yourself periodically. But remember, there’s more to healthy weight than the number on your scale.

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How often should you weigh yourself?

Once-a-week weigh-ins are helpful if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your present weight.

On the other hand, if regularly scheduled weight checks leave you feeling anxious, gauge your weight by how you look and by the fit of your clothes. Just don’t rely on elastic waistbands when you’re evaluating your size!

Some of us like to keep an eye on small weight gains with more frequent weight checks. For me, that means a few times a week.

Whatever your strategy, keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate a little from day to day irregardless of what you eat. You may even weigh more in the evening than in the morning of the very same day.

Does a digital scale have any advantage over an old-fashioned dial scale? Not really. You’re not looking for a down-to-the-gram exact measurement. What’s important is to keep an eye on changes in weight and nip them in the bud with exercise and smart eating.

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Jewish Health and Fitness Magazine

How can I fit exercise into my busy schedule?

Where can I buy modest clothing for swimming and bicycling?

What’s the best exercise DVD?

Find the answers to these questions and more at Thrive Magazine. Created by Kate Friedman, Thrive is an on-line PDF “mini” magazine devoted to Jewish women’s health and fitness.

Kate, a fellow former-Oregonian, teaches Torah and physical education in St. Louis, Missouri, where she’s also the athletic director of Block Yeshiva High School. She majored in Judaic Studies at Brandeis, spent a semester at Hebrew University and learned at Neve Yerushalayim and Shearim in Jerusalem.

Sports and fitness is her passion and expertise.

Kate’s magazine is filled with practical advice and inspiration for Jewish women interested in improving their health. She’s gathered articles from experts and lay people about health and fitness from a Jewish perspective. There are exercise ideas, nutrition tips, recipes, book reviews and more.

Kate’s creative, fun approach is informative and inspiring. I highly recommend Thrive to all of my readers. Go to http://jewishwomenthrive.googlepages.com/ where you can download the latest edition as well as the first two editions of Thrive Magazine.

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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