Q: I work the graveyard shift at a security job, have a television at my post and always see you on those infomercials for that exercise equipment. Do you really use it regularly? And what else do you do to keep in shape?
A: Many of you know that I endorse the Total Gym, but what you might not know is that I also have been working out on it for 34 years. I actually learned about the Total Gym by chance. I had pulled a rotator cuff lifting weights, and I was going to have it operated on, when I got a call from Larry Westfall and Tom Campanaro, who had just developed this machine for rehab centers. They told me that the Total Gym could rehab my shoulder and that I wouldn't need the operation. I was skeptical, but I decided to give it a try.
Tom and Larry came to my home, set up the machine and showed me the exercises they wanted me to do. They said to try it for six weeks and see how I felt. I did. In six weeks, my shoulder was healed. I was able to start back with my jujitsu training. While I was grappling, I thought to myself, "I feel stronger and more flexible." I finally realized it was my exercising on the Total Gym that did it. I called Tom and Larry and told them that it not only rehabbed my rotator cuff but also increased my strength. They said, "Sure, because of the elongated movements on the Total Gym, it builds up not only muscle strength but also tendon strength." That was 1976. And the Total Gym is as much a part of my life as my martial arts training has been since 1960.
My friend Dr. Tedd Mitchell, who was formerly the medical director of the renowned Cooper Aerobics Center and currently serves as the president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, gives many lectures about health. During them, he half-jokingly refers to the proliferating new order of inactive Homo sapiens as Homo sedentarius. He has told me that though he gets big laughs from audiences when he says that statement, he realizes that there is nothing funny about the alarming trend of inactivity and the mass scale of sickness, obesity, shortened longevity and the financial costs to society that result from them. He says that if you want a disturbing glimpse of how bad the situation has become in the past few years and an idea of the horrendous direction we're headed in, get on the Internet and go to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check out the trends for obesity and diabetes. They will show you how we are progressively headed for the graveyard.
We all know the power and necessity of exercise, but most people erroneously believe that they have to have a herculean exercise program to get and stay in shape. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I will now share with you the things I do to keep this 70-year-old body in optimal condition. Actually, my wife, Gena, is my workout partner. I suggest you get a workout partner, who will help you stay motivated.
Here is our weekly workout schedule. You can use part of it, all of it or none of it!
—Total Gym: I do a routine that takes me exactly 15 minutes.
—Fast walk: Then we will fast-walk two miles or use one of our elliptical machines for 30 minutes.
—Crunches: I will do 10 minutes of crunches for my abs.
—Stretching: I will finish with a few minutes of stretching.
—Martial arts: I start by stretching and then move on to isolated kicks in slow motion. Then I will do hand and feet combination strikes on a heavy bag. If I have someone besides Gena to work out with, I will practice my jujitsu. She doesn't like my getting her into chokeholds or arm bars!
—Pool exercise: We finish by doing kicks in the pool. Why do I use the pool? It has numerous benefits. Low-impact water workouts combine cardiovascular exercises with strength training, with little risk of injury. Even though you might feel lighter, the added resistance of water makes the aerobics challenging. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air because of its higher density. As water pushes against the body, the movements become more difficult, requiring muscles to work harder. I strongly recommend it.
Whatever your particular exercise of choice, the ideal is to hit your target heart rate for 20-30 minutes at least four times a week. To figure out your target heart rate (during exercise), subtract your age from 220. Multiply that number by 0.6. Multiply the original number again, by 0.9. The range between those two products is your target heart rate range.
So keep moving — or, as Dr. Colbert says, "keep stirring the waters"!
Or do as sisters Bessie and Sadie Delany recommended a few years before they died (Bessie at 104 and Sadie at 109): "God only gave you one body, so you better be nice to it. Exercise, because if you don't, by the time you're our age, you'll be pushing up daisies."
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.