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For the past almost thirty years of practice I have advised my patients to go swimming on a regular basis. Countless times I have said to my patients that if they swim regularly they will need a functional medicine practitioner less frequently.

Today at Sunday men swim time at Lifeplex/sportarama I saw several of my patients in the pool (and then later in the sauna). It gives me great pleasure to know that I have positively influenced people to exercise. I played basketball as well today with my 18 year old son (I beat him) and then he bicycled to a friend, and then he went swimming with me, too!!(He is a WSI, and an excellent teacher for swimming lessons).

In my new patient packet I include a sheet of a Rambam(Maimonides) from the fourth chapter of The Laws of Knowledge. In the fifteenth law he states (English translation not mine) “but if one leads a sedentary life and does not exercise-even if he eats wholesome foods-he will throughout his life be subject to aches and pains and his strength will fail him.” To quote a more recent study, in 1996 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that physically active people had, on average, lower annual direct medical costs than inactive people. The study estimated that increasing regular, moderate physical activity among the more than 88 million inactive Americans over the age of 15 could reduce the annual direct medical costs by much as $76.6 billion dollars a year.

Medically, many chronic diseases can occur including heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, asthma, back pain, depression, and others. Inactivity causes more physician visits, more pharmaceuticals, more ambulance services, more rehab, nursing home and hospital care. Diabetes is epidemic now inAmericaeven amongst children. Type II diabetes, associated with inactivity and obesity, affects 20.8 million people (in 2005), which represents 7% of the population. Another estimated 16 million people have “syndomeX”, metabolic syndrome- prediabetes insulin resistance. By increasing exercise and reducing the intake of simple sugars we would save lives and millions of dollars. Medicare spent $10.4 billion dollars on diabetes care in 2000, and $34.9 billion on heart disease. They spent $2.5 billion on depression, up from $1.3 billion ten years earlier. About 50 million people have high blood pressure, and overall 108 million people are obese or overweight (that’s 61% of the population).

Regular physical activity enhances psychological well-being and appears to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve mood. A recent study in which 200 women were tested and scored with anxiety/depression was published. They took 100 women and put them on Zoloft and the other 100 women were told to walk about one hour straight, about 4-5 times a week. After six months both groups were brought back to the clinic for retesting. Both groups showed equal improvement!

Adults (18 years of age or older) should be engaged in a minimum moderate level of exercise for 30 minutes in- a- row five or more times a week. Consistency is the key!

Walk, run, bicycle, dance, swim, jump rope, just do it and make a routine of it.

In the religious school, system we are familiar with, physical activity is not often stressed. Sports activities are often outlawed, and study hours and/or homework takes up a great deal of the day. Yet I implore upon the leaders and principals etc. to take into consideration the above expressed information. We recently all read the passage in the Torah that teaches us that we are responsible to take care of our bodies. The great Rabbi, Reb Ber, the Mezritcher Maggid is said to have espoused” a small hole in the body makes a large hole in the soul.” Parents and teachers and especially the controlling faculty of the schools must re-assess the current situation and the dire need of minimum regular physical activity for all our children. Parents must set an example of regular activity and then insist that the children, boys and girls, be given time for exercise. The two months of summer is not enough. I have a large and active pediatric population in my practice, and I treat far too much back pain, headaches, obesity, phobias with anxiety and other illnesses that surely can be prevented.