Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


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Walk, run or dance – just move it!

Professor Henry Fraser

“I have two doctors - my left leg and my right”. Anonymous

One of these columns which created a great deal of interest and questions was one on exercise, back in 2003 – called “Exercise – boring or blissful?” As diabetes and the obesity epidemic are once more in the public eye, and the new year is the time when all good people vow to exercise, today’s column is an update of that early column, with a few more useful hints.

The benefits and especially the pleasures of exercise have been known and enjoyed for millenia. The Olympic games of ancient Greece, run in the nude, were the inspiration for the modern Olympics. And both philosophers and physicians preached the benefits of exercise. Cicero advised exercise and temperance “to preserve our early strength into old age”; and Hippocrates, the father figure of medicine since around 400 B.C. , waxed eloquent about it.

John Dryden, seventeenth century poet, even wrote poems about it:

“...The wise, for cure, on exercise depend;

God never made his work for man to mend”

This age old wisdom or common sense has stood the test of time, and the common sense of the ages is now supported by a vast body of solid medical evidence. So what are these benefits?

First the long term benefits:

Regular exercise:

-promotes longevity, i.e. active people live longer,
-it reduces heart disease
-it reduces high blood pressure
-it reduces development of diabetes and helps to control diabetes
-it promotes weight loss, i.e. it prevents obesity and reduces obesity
-it reduces osteoporosis, i.e. “thinning” or softening of bones, leading to fractures
-it reduces pain and improves function in chronic arthritis
-it improves strength and balance in the elderly
-it may reduce Alzheimer’s disease
-it improves strength and kidney function in end stage renal failure, as shown by the research of Barbadian Professor Samuel Headley,a leading exercise physiologist in the USA and guest speaker in Barbados a couple of years ago
-it increases physical and cardiovascular fitness, and benefits work performance, sexual and mental performance. (Take note - workers, lovers and students especially!)

-it improves body shape, body image and self esteem – you feel better about yourself…

… and the list goes on!

And then some of the short term benefits:
-it makes you feel good
-it improves depression
-it gets you out and can improve your social life, family life and relationships - its been shown that couples who exercise together tend to stay together (and I don’t mean just bedroom exercise, although other kinds of exercise improve bedroom performance!)

The “feel good” effect comes from the production of endorphins in the brain - chemicals that act like a “pleasure drug” to give us that great “on-top-of-the-world” feeling during and after vigorous exercise. People who don’t get this feeling usually just aren’t doing their stuff vigorously enough! One man I know said “Doc, when I run five or ten miles I feel as if I’m having one lovely long orgasm”.

How much?

So how much exercise should we do? How much makes a difference to our health? Just increasing routine activity makes a difference - parking your car further away, getting off the bus further from home, using the steps instead of the lift … just getting up from your desk more often! Benefits can be seen in some people with just half an hour a day for three days a week, the “classic” prescription for years, but this won’t do much for weight loss! (It’s only equal to about one hamburger in calories!) To really lose weight needs much more effort, for example an hour a day, most days of the week. So a good guide might be at least 30 - 40 minutes every day, or one hour of more vigorous exercise five times a week, with a couple of rest days in between. After all there are 168 hours in a week - can’t we spare just 5 or 6 hours a week, when the profits are so great?

God gave each of us the greatest of all works of art - so let’s take good care of it!

What kind of exercise?

There must be some exercise we like other than “running our mouth”, chasing pipe dreams and jumping to conclusions! Try walking, dancing, jogging, cycling, skipping, aerobics, “working out” with weights, volleyball, gardening (but be careful, you have to be fit for vigorous gardening). Best of all, join a gym and get a personal trainer, or work out with a partner, because resistance exercises, with weights, have enormous benefits (no pun intended). Or at least buy some dumbells. Or do some push ups. It gladdens my heart the number of people and patients I’ve persuaded to start doing push ups again! (Push-ups deserve a whole column!) Or swim. If you can’t swim, contact the wonderful swimming teachers at the gymnasium pool - because swimming is perhaps the best exercise of all.

Of course walking is great and good for keeping company with friends or partners. And it’s great fun to get a pedometer, which clips on your belt, and tells you how far you’re walking. Wear it all day, and target four miles every day. As my Jamaican friends say “Walk good!”

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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