EXERCISE AND PHYSICAL FITNESS

 

     Are you spooked by the word " hard-work"?  Would you rather just think about it?  Think about it and your wish will never come true.  What wish?  "I wish I wasn't such a slug and had a body like that, wish."  Only hard work will make your wish come true.

     Check this out.  Someone will detail a car, keep it in mint condition, putting the best oil and gas in it and be able to tell you the very reason of how and why the mechanics work.  Con you see the analogy I'm making?  People live their whole lifetime not knowing their bodies.  What a shame! . . . Tsk, Tsk, Tsk . . . . Sorry if I offended you specifically . . . . Sorry?

     I'm in my 40's.  I'm not old.  I continue to train and exercise with a vengeance.  Hey!  Now sure I think about my heart, my health, my diet, but not to the point that it compromises my training to build my body.  Did you ever hear about the people who are exceptions to the rule; they are because they decided for themselves that they would be.  Just because almost everyone is dying in their 50's, 60's, and 70's -- that doesn't mean, that's what a human life span is.  That is an average death rate.  Believe it, biological potential for a human is 120 to 160 years of life.  The non exceptions cry:  "Well, who would want to live that long, be taken care of, and be a burden?"  Well I want to, and I don't want to be taken care of or be a burden to anyone.  Great health, sharp mind, and all body functions under control; I would like to hit my full biological potential.  Too many people who retire, actually retire to leisure which robs years of life, they really need vigorous activity; vigor is life.  A lot of people trudge through the turmoil of work for years and years, hit their retirement and then die shortly after.

     I personally do not detail my car, keep it tweaked, or use the best of the best for it.  But I will do those thing for my body.  Anything that will keep it running longer, more smoothly, and more efficiently, I will do.  The greatest wealth is health.  Most of the general public get on that downward spiral of medicine, medication and doctor visits once they are 30 or 40 years of age.  You yourself can do more for you than any doctor, medicine, or hospital.  Blood pressure, heart rate, lung capacity; it's all on you' as well as body fat, flexibility, muscle strength, muscle endurance and cardiovascular, not to mention the immune system and that feeling of well being.  So many; too many people take a pill to keep these systems from collapsing when nature dictates you build a reserve.

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. . . . . . The greatest wealth is health.
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     Long life, health, strength, etc. has to be worked at.  The more you put in, the more your return.  So. . .if you put in the effort of a lawn dummy, your reward will coincide.  Everyday, people are dropping dead -- not even close to living up to half of their biological potential.  They should be in their prime and they're dropping dead.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm in the prime of my life now and when I'm in my 50's, 60's and 70's, I'll be even more prime.  When you quit dreaming and stop setting goals -- you start getting old.  Only you can slow down, stop, and reverse a lot of the aging damage.  Hey! . . . .you know the deal; pay now in sweat or pay later in money to the great big, hungry, medical monster.

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. . . . . . When you quit dreaming and stop setting goals --
you start getting old.

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     Remember when you were in shape?  You know the story; walk a mile or so to school.  Play tag at recess.  Run home for lunch.  Jog back to school.  Play tag at recess.  Run home after school, have a snack.  Tell mom no homework then ride the bike to the football field.  Play until dark, ride the bike home at top speed, have supper, shower, hour TV and then bed.  This was a typical week day in the early growing years.  You were in shape, had a feeling of well being, youthfulness,  and were having fun.  Life was great, you were physically fit.  I'm still trying to get that childhood feeling of well being and fitness back.  And I know that as long as I'm trying I'm not deteriorating at an astronomical rate and welcoming old age in a hurry.  Many a bedridden person would gladly trade for the muscle aches that come with exercise -- don't be another one with hindsight wishes.  Act now.

     Exercise is your miracle pill.  Exercise is the answer and cure to many health problems.  A good degree of physical fitness is not possible without exercise.  Exercise will put you on that path of getting closer to that feeling of well being; more so than anything else.  A body thoroughly worked (exercised), within the limits of safety, will have not a good, but a great nights sleep.  And as we all know a good nights sleep is priceless to many -- myself included.  Exercise gives one a healthy appetite and lets one have those forbidden foods on occasion without a worry.  Exercise is your answer to a new life, a new adventure and a new you.  Exercise is the great secret to life.  Nothing will get you closer to heaven on earth.

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. . . . . . Exercise is the answer and cure to many health problems.
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     Right up front, let me tell you the biggest scam, the biggest farce being force-fed to the general public today.  Millions of people are being bilked out of billions of dollars; they are led to believe that exercise made easy will give them the results they so long for.  Each day, new contraptions are being put to market to make exercise more and more effortless.  Exercise while you watch TV, exercise for only two minutes a day, burn fat and get in shape while you sleep; what a pile of crap!  The kicker is most people believe this stuff -- everyone is always looking for the easy way out.  There is no easy way if you want results.  When was the last time you worked up a good sweat? . . . . ?  You don't have to spend a penny on any fancy equipment or workout attire, you just have to be willing to put effort in some type of movement.  Forget the new gadgets; they are, in fact, teaching you and your body to be weaker, not stronger.  And besides, you are probably out of closet space by now.

     I realize some of you will work up a sweat just trying to sit up straight and hold your shoulders back for a few minutes -- that's ok -- you have to start somewhere.  Perceived effort should be hard, not very hard, not extremely hard, not drop dead hard but, hard.  And remember, you are unique and an experiment of one, progress at your speed, and your pace only.  There is no universal set program that will work for everyone to progress at the same rate.  Only you can eventually figure out what works for you; effort must be supplied by you.  You can't think it will happen, you have to make it happen.

     How many times have I heard -- "Man!"  I just started working out and am I sore,"...and then I don't hear anything again for weeks.  I know this person has given up as quick as he or she has started.  Most do not have the gumption or "stick to it" fortitude and attitude needed to make their fleeting visions a reality.  All these people are looking for is an easy way out; there's no easy road to where you want to go.  It only gets easy (or so it seems) once you reach your goal.  Nothing in life comes easy, that includes life itself.  Although there are always a few exceptions.

     Let's take a basic look at the major components of fitness in the order that I think they are important: (1) Cardiovascular, (2) Muscle endurance, (3) Flexibility, (4) Muscle strength, (5) Body fat or composition.  Whatever exercise program you embark on, it should address all five factors of fitness.  Cardiovascular refers to your heart and lungs.  This is the most important factor.  You must keep your heart and lungs in the best shape if you want a long life and need to get them in tip-top shape first in order to address the next four factors.

     Muscle endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to do continuous work or repetitions of movement without tiring.  The more endurance you have, the less tired you'll be and you'll have vigor and energy to spare once you acquire a good level of endurance through the right exercise plan.

     Flexibility is being able to move all muscles through their full ranges of motion without pain, assistance, or causing damage.  Once you're loose and limber, (that is, of course, if you work at it) all those aches, pains, and stiffness will disappear like magic.  How many people do you know that got hurt bending over or reaching for something?  Get flexible and decrease your chance of getting injured by more than half.

     Everyone needs to be a little strong.  You have to carry groceries, carry a baby or a small child or a not so small child, open up the catsup bottle, move some furniture, do some of the heavier house or yard chores, change a tire, just to name a few small jobs that could turn into major tasks if you don't possess a minimal amount of strength.  Strength is free to anyone willing to work for it.

     As far as body fat goes, if you get the last four factors in order, a lot of the extra baggage will disappear.  And the rest will follow with a proper, nutritious, and calorie controlled diet plan.  Think how nice it will be not having to lug that lard around.

     I, myself, like to exercise in the morning; the first thing in the morning,...the bad thing or down side about first thing  in the morning is that you are cold, half asleep, and your energy level is low.  This forces me to do an aerobic workout first to get the blood flowing and raise my body core temperature.  After 20 to 40 minutes, I'm wide awake, starting to sweat, and raring to go.  I immediately go into some light stretches and/or calisthenics and then finish with some form of muscle strength/endurance protocol.  Although this works for me, a lot of people prefer to exercise after work to unwind and reduce stress and tension from the daily grind of their job.  Whatever works for you -- as long as you're persistent and consistent, any simple basic fitness program will work and produce results.

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. . . . . . As long as you're persistent and consistent,
any simple basic fitness program will work and produce results.

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     I read a touching story about a nationally syndicated sportswriter, Mitch Albom who went to meet with his college professor, the late Morrie Schwartz in 1995.  Mr. Schwartz was dying, and, for years Mitch wanted to keep in touch with him, but he was too busy with his career responsibilities.

     Finally, Mitch went to visit his old mentor and he decided for 14 Tuesdays he would fly across the country and tape his discussions with Mr. Schwartz.  The experience changed Mitch's life and he wrote a book.  Not only did he give comfort to an old friend during his last days, but he received an insight that changed his life.

     He was reminded to "accept what you're able to do, not what you can't.  Forgive before it's too late.  Accept and revel in one's self.  Cherish family."  To Mitch, seeing Mr. Schwartz die was an awakening.  The journalist who once viewed himself as materialistic says he is spending more time with his wife.  He has delegated production work for his radio shows, and he considers himself more appreciative of life.

     He concludes by saying, "I traded lots of dreams for a bigger paycheck, and I never realized I was doing it."

     I look right into your heart and I ask you "What dreams are you trading in exchange for a bigger paycheck?"

     You see, I begin this chapter with this story for a special reason.  Most of us know and agree that exercise is good for us, but why don't we do it?  Because we're "too busy".  Like Mitch, I think most Americans struggle in this materialistic, capitalistic society to keep their priorities in the right order.  Down deep we know what's important in life.  Like family and quiet time, yet we get so distracted by the demands of every day life that we lose sight of the treadmill that we are on.  We do that for a day, it becomes a habit for the week, and then we look back and we see that a lifetime goes by and we wonder how we missed the mark by so much.

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. . . . . . "What dreams are you trading in exchange
for a bigger paycheck?"

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     I admonish you right at the beginning of this chapter, don't let happen to you what happened to Mitch.  We get so caught up in our fast pace of life, that we almost don't make time to visit an old friend who is dying that is largely responsible for our success in life.  Why must the sobering and final act of death finally slap us awake where we revamp our priorities?  You hear it so often in my office, that after a loved one departs, how people learn to appreciate life's simple things again.

     Do this - it changed my life.  As soon as I get out of my shower at home, I see a sign hanging which says "live each day as if it were your last!"  Across from my desk in my office reads a plaque that says "treasure each day, make it a masterpiece!"  They are daily reminders that force me to keep focused.  To literally live each day as if you will not have another, THAT will keep your priorities straight.  You see, that is why we write this book.  We passionately want you to see how we have walked your walk, we know how easy it is to lose sight of the daily miracles that go around us each day.

     You go to work, and you give it your best energy.  Maybe you are appreciated at work, but most people feel that they are not.  Then you come home, and do some household chores.  Then you help the kids with their homework, try to see if they need guidance with the little girl that intimidates your daughter, or your son who doesn't like to study, or all children who these days want to play on the computer instead of doing their chores.  So they get to bed, you pay the bills, and when you finally look at the clock, it says 10:47 p.m.  Your body slumps.  You had good intentions to exercise some time during the day, but your alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. the next day and you know you should get to sleep.  You have no reserve energy left for yourself.

     So, up the stairs you go.  Full of anxieties and tensions of the day, yet too busy to find time to exercise.  This slowly becomes your lifestyle and as you gain weight, have less energy, then you look to short cut alternatives to get to your goal.  Maybe you try diet pills, only to get side effects.  Maybe you actually do play a pick-up basketball game or join a female aerobics club, only to be sore for a week, then you give up on that idea.

     So we pray to touch a part of your mind and heart to get you to realize that we know where you are at, to some degree.  Yet we remind you of the general theme of this book.  If you don't want to be old too soon and smart too late, you must adopt some small daily disciplines that will change your life.  No short-cuts, no quick-rich schemes but a life-map that if followed, even just to some degree, should help you to find joy and fulfillment in each day of your life.

     Now that we are in agreement with you that your own personal story probably has a list of things that keep you pre-occupied, if we are to go any further you must mentally submit that you have time for those things that you truly do feel are important.  In my office when I ask a patient if they walked two miles a day outdoors like I suggested, they invariably say, "Doc, I couldn't find the time."  As they lie on the table, I gently slap their backside, and say, "I won't accept that.  If I gave you a $100 for every day you walked, would you find the time then?"  They always giggle and say yes, and they realize they could do it if they truly wanted to.  Firm love, but it is needed to wake people up.

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. . . . . . If you don't want to be old too soon and smart too late, you
must adopt some small, daily disciplines that will change your life.

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     So as writers, we understand your challenge, yet as readers, we want you to agree that you could find and make the time to exercise.  You could!  In fact, you will.  Now we are truly ready to proceed on some practical suggestions as to why exercise is so vital for your life and how to gradually implement it into your life.

     We will not give a list of all the specific instructions for each exercise, there are many self-help books that do that.  We want more to help you overcome your mental obstacles so you will overcome inertia and start and then continue with an exercise program.  So the first rule to live by is - find exercises you enjoy, and do that.

     I know that may not sound so profound on the surface, but this has been my observation.  Most people when I ask them if they exercise, they tell me how they are active at work all day long.  I tell them that doesn't count.  Of the 650 muscles in the human body, our daily routines utilize only about 200 of them.  So when I make note of how the stop and go working in the home of a housewife is not as beneficial as a two hour fast consistent hike in the woods, I get their understanding, but I still feel their "negative vibes."  Sit for a moment and simply think of your happiest memories.  It is usually of some physical activity, or exercise.

     See, some people need to pay $300 and then they will keep the commitment of going to the gym, to line-dance, or do step-aerobics.  Other people may have such an unpredictable schedule that they cannot join in any membership, so they must see what they can fit in.  Maybe while your son is at basketball practice at the YMCA, instead of just sitting there, you could get on a treadmill or stepping machine for an hour.  Maybe while your preschooler is learning from 9:30 to 11:20, you could play some sets of tennis, go for a bike-ride, or walk around a community lake.

     I know you have to shop for groceries, dust, and do seven loads of clothes.  I'm convinced that if we watch less TV, and do some chores at night, then the next day when the sun is shining we could throw another load of clothes in, go for a jog, and come home and put another load in.  Be creative, you must believe that you can do both -- get all your work and responsibilities done and exercise also.  Believe that you can, plan ahead and you will be renewed.

     I personally do different sports as the seasons change.  Maybe in the winter you can play basketball, racket ball, and get on your basement treadmill.  In the spring it is glorious to go for hikes with the kids as the birds chirp and the trees are blossoming.  Then in the summer you can bike, ride, swim, scuba, snorkel, soccer, tennis, or picnic.  Include the children, too many kids are getting overweight from a lack of exercise.  They may grumble at first, but a nice hike and a dip in a  local river is great, and as they lay down to sleep they say, "we had a great day, and we didn't even watch any TV!"  In the fall you can golf, mountain bike, or have volleyball parties in your back yard with your friends like we do.  There's such a variety of activities or exercises you can do, you can make it from a "I don't like to exercise" attitude, to a "what a great hike, picking blueberries" attitude.  The choice is yours.

     One vital point I want to make is to take stock of your body firs to see what exercises are best for you.  Maybe you injured your shoulder trying to block a volleyball spike, so let your injury heal.  You should stop volleyball, but don't give up on all sports.  You can still go for walks, or even jogs.  Maybe you sprained your toe at soccer, your knee from basketball, or your elbow from golf or tennis.  As you age, your body heals slower, as you already know.  So, don't exert the injured area.  Get into different activities and then test your injury once you are ready.

     All too often I will see a 45 year old guy who hurt his knee during a basketball game.  The next week, instead of staying home and letting it heal, he's back on the court with a knee brace.  He tries to be cautious, but one wrong, quick move and then he has to go for knee surgery.  Then the doctor tells him no more basketball.  If you have the view that you want to keep active all your life, nourish your injuries.  You will still have a variety of exercises to do as you age.  That brings up a good point.  Know your abilities and realize that with age you have to alter your exertion level.  You may have been a great high school or even college athlete, but now after three children and twenty pounds heavier, your body is slower.  Realize this, and if you can't keep up with the 20 year olds any more, either pace yourself so you won't get injured, or go to an over 30 league.

     So you are more prone to keep doing what you enjoy doing.  Keep variety in your life.  Watch the weather forecasts and plan ahead so you can work and play during the week.  Know your own body limits and nourish your injuries so you could play or exercise all your life.  When you were once 25 and doing triathlons, maybe when you're 50, you will have to cut back on your speeds or distances and when you're 75 you could still golf, hike, or walk daily.

     Remember one of our themes; you are your own best doctor.  Push yourself to stay active and young, yet know your physical limits when you need rest, or when you are pushing your body too hard.  This is critical.  You must be continually aware that if you have worked really hard lately and your body is drained, maybe skiing all day and taking 50 laps at the pool are too much.  Being "in tune" with your body is a special art and I think as you age you must be even more aware of any small weaknesses your body has.

     With all this in mind, I finally add the single - most important ingredient to this recipe to stay younger and that is to exercise consistently.  My advice is one hour a day, everyday, and more on weekends.  Remember, situations change.  Maybe you are pregnant.  That will change - walk your baby in a stroller when the sunshine is out.  Maybe you are working two jobs - that will change, one day your debts will be smaller.  Maybe your spouse just died; try to find a friend.  A daily walk is great medicine.

     We were created to be part of Nature.  So do as many outdoor activities when you can.  Walk on your treadmill on an icy day.  Walk in the woods on a better day.

     On my way to racquetball one Saturday morning I was considering my game strategy against a 64 year old man who was the reigning champion at the YMCA for B players.  As I drove down the street, I noticed what looked to be about a 35 year old man stumble out of a bar and vomit all over the sidewalk.  By his dirty clothes, it looked like this was a routine of his.  As I started chasing the little green racquetball, I wondered what makes one man at 35, drink until he is sick at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and another man who is 64, give a 40 year old a run for his money?

     I acknowledge that as you read this chapter, or this book, that you might he saying "oh, it's easy for him to say, he's not in my situation".  You may be a  35 year old male, alcoholic and never had the opportunities that some people have.  You may be a single parent, female, 30 years old and barely able to keep food on the table and clean the house, much less make time for exercise.  You may be 68 years old with arthritis in your hands, knees, feet and shoulders and it is a struggle to just get out of bed in the morning.

     So, yes, we each have different situations, but I encourage you.  Circumstances will change eventually.  If you hang in there, I believe that you have the desire and you can overcome any obstacle and eventually master your circumstances.  I close this chapter with a story about Wilma Rudolph to encourage you.  We must not look at our problems and give up, or look at those people who can't do what we do and think we are ok.  We must look at those who rise above, who give us inspiration to be better than we are.  Inside each of us is a champion; listen to her story and see if you agree.

     Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children.  She was born in Tennessee.  Unfortunately for her, she was born with a defect in her leg which forced the doctors to give her a cumbersome metal brace for her leg.  Although even just to walk was difficult, Wilma had a dream that she wanted to run.  Doctors told her she never could run and she should just be content with limping along in life with her metal "ball and shackles".  But Wilma's mother told her 'if you want to run; I believe you can".

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. . . . . . If you hang in there, I believe that you have the desire
and you can overcome any obstacle and eventually master your circumstances.

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     So Wilma Rudolph started to exercise.  She entered her first race and ended up much later after all the runners crossed the finish line.  But she thought "at least I finished" and she kept training.  The next race she still came in last, but she was narrowing the gap.  She kept running until the one day she came in first place!

     Now you would think that accomplishment would have been enough for most people, but not for Wilma.  She took off her brace and started to run all day long.  She was winning every race and was awarded a scholarship to run at Temple University.  Her coach admired her stamina and her will to push herself further; that strength won her national acclaim when she was picked to be on the women's track and field team for the Olympics in Rome for 1960!

     The story goes that Wilma ran her heart out and won two gold medals.  Yet her supreme test would be in her final race.  She would be up against a German runner who was unbeaten.  For the women's 400 meter relay.  Wilma would be the last runner, and the anchor runner for the German team would be the champion.

     All the crowd that day knew what Wilma did just to get into the Olympics.  They felt she was tired from her previous two races and if the United States could just stay close to the German it would be an accomplishment.  So there was an excitement in the air.  I beg the reader to imagine that you were in the stadium that day.

     The gun sounds and the runners are off.  After the first three runners, the German and the United States teams are dead even.  In her excitement to go, Wilma dropped the baton as the runner behind her handed it to her.  The entire stadium watched as the German champion had a clean transfer with her baton and she sped off for the finish line.  As Wilma bent down to pick up her baton, she glanced and saw Jedda Hine sprinting away.  (Maybe in a flash her mind reminded her of all the years of work, sacrifice and discipline that it took to get to this point.  Maybe her athletic skills just instinctively told her to get up and go.)

     So Wilma started her pursuit and to the amazement of the crowd attending and to the world to this day, Wilma passed her competitor on the last turn and won!  Three gold medals for a woman who was told by doctors she could never run.  A story that shows the spirit of the human will.  A story that shows the influence a supportive mother can have on her child.  Wilma chose not to believe her doctors, instead, she listened to her  mother.  Mothers, parents, don't underestimate the impact that you have on the destiny of your children.

     Although that story brings a tear to my eye because it reminds me that we all have such a great potential with our mind, body and spirit.  Yet I remind the reader that so much in life is all relative.  Each of us must know our realistic limits; our job responsibilities, our family needs, our personal skills, to determine if we have the time to start training for a triathlon or maybe just a 10K race is within our grasp, or maybe a one block walk if we are just recuperating from an illness.

     You see, to a person who has pushed themselves all their life and they finish the New York Marathon or win a gold medal in the Olympics, they are ecstatic.  Yet, to a child who just scored his first soccer goal, or an elderly person who just finished his one-mile walk, the feelings are just as intense.  Remember, one of the themes in this book is that each of us is unique with special circumstances.  We are to be our own best doctor by being in tune with ourselves and knowing how far to push ourselves.  For those of you who have sights as Wilma Rudolph did, go for it daily with a discipline that nothing will stop you until you attain your goal.  For those of you who just look for a consistent, daily routine to keep fit, stay focused and maintain balance in your life.  For those of you who are recuperating from an illness, go slowly and rejoice in your small improvements.  So know your specific circumstances and apply the wisdom that this book strives to offer.

     On the radio in May of 1998, I heard a song by Rod Stewart entitled "Ooh, La, La".  In the chorus of the song he sang a catchy tune that I think reflects a lot of people's attitudes.  He sang; "I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger.  I wish I knew, what I know now, when I was stronger."  His words mirror our intent, to help you to gain knowledge before you are too old.

     So much of life we learn as we go along.  If you have pain when you exercise, then get ready for our next chapter which will deal specifically with how we feel.  Structural, spinal problems are ignored by the majority of the medical community.  These problems will actually be aggravated by exercise.  But overall be excited at what level you are at and find your specific goals in attaining a plan of exercise which will, sustain you all of your life.

     I have seen, in my office, people who pushed their body too hard when they were younger and now at only 50 years of age they have bad knees or a bad back and they lament over what could have been.  Or I have seen a busy father sacrifice his family, time, and exercise three hours a day to train for a triathlon.  He celebrates as he crosses the finish line, only to see his wife and child leave him the next month because he was never home, and when he was home, he was out training.  Exercise, but know your limits and make it fit into your family and work schedules so that all areas will benefit from what you do.

     You will live a longer, healthier life if you exercise moderately on a daily basis; that is a proven fact.  Monitor what you do by asking yourself "am I damaging my body, or can I still do this activity and still be able to play tennis when I'm 60, golf at 70 and swim at 80?  That is our personal desire and sincere prayer for you, a lifetime, realistic plan.  Now let's get to an exciting topic of how chiropractic is such a necessary piece in the pie of your holistic approach to staying as young and as healthy as you can all of your life.

 

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