Section 0
Principles of Health

Part 4e
Fifth Law of Health - Exercise


God's plan for your life includes active exercise. Just now, for a few minutes, see what it can do for you.

Do you want to live longer? Here is how Dr. Roy J. Shepard, an expert on exercise and aging at the University of Toronto, explains it:

"You'd have to go a long way to find something as good as exercise as a fountain of youth. And you don't have to run marathons to reap the benefits. Little more than rapid walking for 30 minutes at a time three or four times a week can provide ten years of rejuvenation."

One of the early studies on the relationship of exercise to aging was done by Dr. Herbert de Vries. In one study of his, more than 200 men and women, ages 56 to 87 in a California retirement community, participated in a fitness program that included walking, a walk-jog routine, calisthenics, and stretching. After just six weeks, their blood pressure dropped, body fat decreased, maximum oxygen transport increased, and neuromuscular signs of nervous tension diminished. Analyzing the results, de Vries concluded:

"Men and women of 60 to 70 became as fit and energetic as those 20 to 30 years younger." And he added, "The ones who improved most were those who had been the least active and the most out-of-shape."

Later in this chapter we will give more information on how to use exercise to help lengthen your life.

Here is a brief summary of some of the things that regular exercise can begin doing for you right now:

(1) Exercise will improve the tone of your muscles and blood vessels, changing them from weak and flabby tissue to strong and firm tissue, often reducing blood pressure in the process.
(2) It will increase the efficiency of your heart in several ways. Gradually it will grow stronger and pump more blood with each stroke, thus reducing the number of strokes needed to supply your body with life-giving blood.
(3) It will improve your digestion by quickening the circulation and helping to lift the blood back to the heart from the digestive organs and thus normalizing your bowel action.
(4) It will increase the efficiency of your lungs, conditioning them to process more air with less effort.
(5) It will increase your maximum oxygen consumption by increasing the amount available and the efficiency of its delivery to body cells.
(6) It will improve the overall condition of your body, especially your most vital parts: the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and endocrine system. This will impart added protection against sickness.
(7) It can change your whole outlook on life, enabling you to relax, work more efficiently, and handle stress better. When not overdone, it imparts a cheerful quality to the mind.
(8) It will enable you to sleep better at night and think better during the day. Exercise strengthens the will. You will be able to get more work done with less fatigue.
(9) It will slow down your aging process—by slowing down the natural physical deterioration that old age normally brings. It will give you a new zest for life at a time when you most need it. And there is evidence that it can reduce the likelihood of cancer.

Now, let us look more closely at some of these facts:

Exercise, consistently done with proper moderation as the years advance, can help prevent heart attacks as well as many other ailments.

The blood vessels are carefully lined with smooth muscle fibers and if these special muscles do not receive adequate exercise, they gradually atrophy. The only way you can exercise a blood vessel is to put demand on the blood stream to provide more oxygen. When you exercise, your muscular tissues use up oxygen more rapidly. Your heart has to beat faster to pump along a new supply of oxygen-carrying blood to meet this demand. As your heart increases its pumping action it pushes more blood through the system. The blood vessels expand and contract in order to meet this demand. And this exercises them. Without that exercise, they become flabby and begin to degenerate.

Aside from the physiological benefit that exercise has on the heart, arteries and veins, it also improves muscle tone—which will stand one in good stead in emergencies. Then there is the improvement in digestion that takes place. And have you had to deal with nervous tension? One of the best ways to counteract it is the physical fatigue from healthful exercise. And that benefit cannot be stressed too much.

The involuntary muscles of the body—for example those in the stomach and intestinal canal—are strengthened by the exercise of their fibers equally as much as are the voluntary or external muscles. At the same time, the muscular structures of the body, such as the heart and uterus are improved.

Difficult and painful menstruation is often relieved by a general program of physical exercise and a careful diet composed of natural foods.

Physical exercise helps children grow. The proper development of their bones, muscles, and other body organs are keyed to physical activity. For some strange reason, children seem to sense their need of physical exercise more than do their elders.

The nervous system is improved functionally by body movements of any kind.

Exercise provides a powerful increase of oxygen to the body. Ordinarily, a man inhales about 500 cubic inches of air every minute. By walking about four miles per hour, he draws in about 2,500 cubic inches per minute,—or five times more than that absorbed when sitting down.

Physicians are now prescribing exercise as part of the recovery program for speeding up the recovery of surgical and maternity patients; preventing phlebitis, clots, embolisms, kidney stones, and loss of calcium from the bones of bed patients. They require it for the restoration of physical and mental health in elderly invalids. It is given to help rehabilitate those who have has poliomyelitis, strokes, arthritis, accidental injury, and other neurologic and orthopedic disorders.

Researchers have learned that regular exercise tends to reduce blood pressure slightly, increase the pumping efficiency of the heart, and improve oxygen utilization by all the tissues in the body.

Dr. Richard W. Eckstein of Western Reserve University, conducted a significant series of tests. The coronary arteries of several dogs were surgically narrowed to simulate the atherosclerosis of the coronary artery. Half the dogs were then exercised and half were not. Five to eight weeks later, the exercised group showed decidedly more improvement in "collateral circulation." What had happened was that there was an increase in tiny blood vessels to bypass the narrowed artery. Many heart specialists believe that regular, moderate exercise will do the same for many people with coronary artery disease.

A lack of physical activity leads to abnormal or accelerated clotting of the blood in coronary, cerebral, and other arteries, as well as in the veins. In view of this, it is now felt that regular on-going activity all year long may be important in preventing or reducing strokes and coronary heart attacks. But it is thought that spurts of activity at intervals in an otherwise sedentary life will not accomplish this objective. Such physical exercise may even be harmful over a period of time. Yes, exercise is needed at every age of life, but in the later years we must obtain it in a more careful manner.

Other studies have shown that moderate or vigorous exercise can reduce blood cholesterol levels. And this is an important factor, for in atherosclerosis patients this level is often higher than it should be.

One comparative study was made of elderly men, who in college had been physical athletes. For the most part, they died from heart disease about as quickly as the rest of us. This was due to the fact that after leaving college they did not continue to exercise vigorously. Another research study, conducted by Drs. Paul White and William Pomeroy, analyzed the later living habits of 355 men who had been Harvard football players between 1901 and 1930. Their later exercise program—or lack of it—was compared with their health, longevity, and deaths. Across the board, those men who led sedentary lives did not live longer.

Dr. J.N. Morris, of the British Research Council, found that London bus drivers were more likely to die suddenly from coronary thrombosis than their fellow workers, the conductors, who walked about collecting tickets from the passengers. He also discovered that government clerks more frequently suffered from fatal coronary artery infraction than do the government postmen who were out on the streets delivering mail.

Do you want to live a long time? Exercise—regularly—moderately—but exercise. And do it for the rest of your life.

"Eventually we all decline," says Everett L. Smith, director of the Biogerontology Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. "But the quality of life is so much higher for the elderly who are physically active than for people who sit waiting for the Grim Reaper."

Aging brings problems. And everyone past twenty is aging, without an exception. Each year after reaching maturity, the heart's ability to pump blood drops about one percent. That is a lot. By the time you are 60, the blood flow is 30 to 40 percent slower than when you were a young adult. With age, the amount of air that you can exhale after a deep breath lessens and your chest wall gradually stiffens. Nerve messages travel through your body at a slower speed: about 10-15% less by the time you have reached the age of 70.

But studies reveal that most of these age-associated declines can be delayed by exercise. For example, exercise lowers the resting heart rate and increases the amount of blood pumped with each beat. Exercise puts stress on the bones and causes them to have more calcium in them, thus making them stronger and less susceptible to fractures.

If you are young, anticipate the aging process and get ahead of it. If you are older, then get to work—begin a moderate exercise program to help keep you in shape for years to come.

Even though you may be older, exercise will improve your heart and respiratory function, increase your muscle strength, give you denser bones, quicker reaction time, and reduced susceptibility to depression and a number of diseases.

But, if you are over 50, exercise carefully. Avoid jumping and pounding activities. Yes, exercise, but do it carefully and properly. A little frequently, with a gradual buildup in your exercise program. And if you get stopped by sickness, start back slowly. The best objective is light exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes, three to five times weekly. Take it slow, gradually move up. Know your limit. Exercise regularly. Warm up first with stretching or slow walking. Cool down afterward by never stopping suddenly when it is done.

One of the great faults of our current civilization is that our young adults at about the age of 25 become "too busy" to exercise. Yet, for the next two decades of their lives, they probably need it even more than when they were children.

Walking is one of the simplest and best exercises. Go outdoors into the open air and walk. Leave all your cares behind you and briskly set off with your arms swinging. Take deep breaths of air as you go. Some people use a pedometer to count the distance walked. Other people, including this writer, employ what to them is a simpler method: clock it. Go for a brisk walk and come back 30 minutes or 60 minutes later.

Jogging is the great way to exercise—or is it? It is fine if you are young and do not stick with it too many years. This is what the experts are now conceding. Even Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who helped launch the fitness boom in 1968 with his best-selling book, "Aerobics," has shifted gears after suffering from bone fractures and heel problems from years of jogging. "I've changed my mind," he says, "I'm running less and performing better." And that is where the problem lies: the bones and the joints. They were not made to take the punishment of running, day after day, month after month.

People are waking up to the fact that low-impact exercise is more beneficial in the long run than are the high-impact workouts. Instead of weight lifting, basketball, jogging, tennis; more people are turning to walking, hiking, and cycling.

A study published in the spring of 1986, in the "New England Journal of Medicine," described an analysis of nearly 17,000 Harvard alumni who entered the school between 1916 and 1950. It was found that those who engaged in such moderate exercise as walking and climbing stairs lived up to two years longer than their sedentary peers. Most significant of all was the fact that those who engaged in the "high-impact" vigorous exercises, such as jogging, did not gain any significant health advantage or longevity over those whose exercise program was also consistent each day, although less strenuous and exhausting.

The director of the study, Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger, of the Stanford University Medical School, discovered that the major health benefits came with only 2,000 calories burned off by exercise a week—which is only the equivalent of 2 1/2 to 3 hours of brisk walking every week, in addition to normal activity. Jogging may be great for some, but it is well to recognize, in advance, the foot and knee damage that may be developed later because of it.

But do not think that exercise is only for your off hours. Charles F. Kettering, the automotive genius, worked at full speed until his death at 82. Without any formal exercise program, he instead exercised all day long as he worked. There are ways to do this if you will carefully think them through. But it all adds up to more walking and less sitting.

But, please, do not try to get all your exercise at work. You need time to relax, breathe freely out-of-doors, put all your cares and worries behind you and just amble along. Time to look at the birds and listen to them; time to think of all the ways God has helped you; time to thank Him for it. Exercise, when not at work, is recreative.

Gene Tunney advised his students:

"Take regular exercise—not violent weekends of golf or sporadic bursts of squash, but a daily drill that becomes as much a part of your life as brushing your teeth."

Dr. Arthur H. Steinhause, dean and professor of physiology at George Williams College, developed an exercise program that would also build some muscle in the process. And we can all use some of that.

"In a German laboratory where I worked, it was discovered that a muscle can grow at only a certain rate—and a very small amount of the right exercise will start it growing at that rate. If you contract any one of your muscles to about two-thirds of its maximum power and hold that for six seconds once a day, the muscle will grow just as fast as it can.

"Every day there are bound to be intervals when you have six seconds to relax. They can make a tremendous difference. Pull in your stomach. Pull up your chin. Do these exercises on company time. Do them while going from one place to another. Weave them into the day's routine."

Actually, exercising can be fun. And you need it,—both at your place of business and in your off hours.

Here are nine basic exercises which would fit in with Dr. Steinhaus' recommendations:

(1) Stretch—while sitting, lying, or standing.
(2) Straighten your spine—while standing with your back against the wall.
(3) Expand your chest.
(4) Suck in your stomach—while sitting or bending over.
(5) Flex your arms—by pushing, pulling, and reaching.
(6) Bend your legs—by squatting, climbing, and walking.
(7) Limber your toes and feet.
(8) Firm your muscles—by bouncing, pinching, and kneading them.


Now, for a few moments, let us consider an ongoing exercise program, designed just for you. There are dozens of ways to do it; here is one:

If necessary, find a friend with whom to do this exercise program. You can help each other stick to it. But, with a friend or without one, the next step is to find your target heart rate (THR).

Your THR will help you exercise at just the right pace for you, so you won't overdo. Your THR is the most effective training pulse rate for maximum cardiovascular and excess fat consumption for a person of your age and current level of fitness.

First, take your pulse. The easiest place to feel it is on the side of your neck. (Or you can take it on the thumbside of your wrist, palm up.) Use your first two fingers (not your thumb). Press lightly and count the number of beats per minute.

Now that you know how to take it, you will want to find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). To be most accurate, take your pulse for a full minute when you first awake in the morning, while still lying down, on two consecutive mornings. The average of them is your Resting Heart Rate.

You then want to find your Target Heart Rate. Here is how to learn what it is:

Subtract your AGE from 220 to find your Predicted Maximum Heart Rate. This is the fastest that your heart should ever beat at your age. (Example: 220 minus 50 years of age equals 170.)

From your Predicted Maximum Heart Rate, subtract your Resting Heart Rate (the Pulse rate you found while lying in bed upon awakening). (Example: 170 minus 71 equals 99.)

At this point, you will want to select your Target Zone. This is your current level of fitness, and is a percent of your Maximum Heart Rate. If you are a beginning exerciser, this percentage will be 60%. If you are already doing it regularly, it can be 70%. Competitive athletes will use 80%. Now, multiply the above total by this percentage (Example: 99 times .60 equals 59.4, which we will round off to 59.)

Add to this your Resting Heart Rate, and you have your Target Heart Rate. (Example: 59 plus 71 equals 130.)

It only took a few moments to figure, and now you have your Target Heart Rate. In order to quickly determine it later, just now divide your THR by 6. This will give you your 10-second Target Heart Rate. Henceforth, you will only need to take your pulse for ten seconds in order to see how you vary from your THR. (Example: 130 divided by 6 equals 21.6, which rounds to 22.)

Of course, this formula is only a guide. You will want to watch your own body for signs of overexertion (such as pounding in your chest, a dizzy or faint feeling, or profuse sweating). Breathlessness is another important sign to be alert to.

As time passes on this program, you may find that your Resting Heart Rate will lower somewhat.

During your exercise program of fast walking, etc., you will want to take your pulse as soon as you begin sweating lightly and breathing harder. If you are below your Target Heart Rate, then stride, stroke, pedal, or push a little harder. If you are above your THR, then slow down a bit and take it easy.

Then there is your Recovery Rate. This is how long it takes for your pulse to return to normal. To find this, take your pulse once a minute after you stop your main exercise program each day. It is good for your heart that you cool down slowly, and you are checking on your Recovery Rate at the same time. (Example: Ideally, your pulse should have dropped below 100 beats per minute within 3-5 minutes.)

Before you begin your exercise workout, warm up with a few stretching exercises for 5 minutes. Then begin your active program to keep FIT. F—Frequency: Exercise 3-5 times a week. Four times is ideal, with a day off between workouts to avoid "overuse injury." I—Intensity: Work up to your Target Heart Rate, but do not pass it. T—Time: Do it for at least 20 minutes.

What kind of exercise should this be? Select one that is steady, rhythmic, and continuous. It should place an increased oxygen demand on your heart, lungs, and muscles. And it should use the large-muscle groups of your body (legs, arms, and back). Then comes the cooling down period. This should be for at least 5 minutes. By cooling down slowly, you safely lower your pulse from your Target Heart Rate to normalcy. This both protects your heart and helps prevent injuries from stiff muscles, and is the ideal time for stretching exercises, since warm muscles stretch best and feel better later.

One inventive athletic researcher came up with this way to check yourself while exercising: If you can't talk comfortably while exercising, you're working too hard. If you can sing, then you're not working hard enough.

(Of course, before starting any kind of exercise program, you do best to have a medical evaluation first, if you have a heart condition or family history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, other medical problem, or it you are overweight, over 35, or use tobacco.)

Some people do "cross-training." They alternate between, say, walking, one day, and then swimming; then, next time, they work out. Each activity is done twice a week to maintain good physical stamina. But if all you have opportunity to keep up is a brisk walk, then do that. There is no better exercise.

You might want to keep an Exercise Log, jotting down each time what you did, how long you did it, and the date.

If your exercise is walking, be sure and do it in a good pair of shoes that are comfortable, good fitting, with soles that are cushioned and flexible.

Here are some sample stretching exercises to limber you up during your 5-minute warm-up period: (1) Roll your shoulders several times in each direction. Imagine each shoulder is a wheel. First, turn the wheels forward, as though they were car tires taking you down the road; then put the gears into reverse and rotate them backwards several times. (2) Reach your right arm up straight and then stretch your right side up and over toward your left side, as you tilt your body away from that raised arm, all the while keeping your shoulder straight up from your trunk. Then do the other arm, keeping your hips steady throughout. (3) With your head, hips, and feet in a straight line,—pull one knee up to your chest. Then do the other knee. (4) Keeping your knee pointing straight downward to the ground,—reach back and pull your foot up to your buttocks with your opposite hand. Use the other hand to steady yourself, with a slight lean against a wall or tree. (5) With one foot about 12 inches behind the other, bend your front knee, and keeping both knees aimed forward,—press your back heel unto the ground and stretch your calf muscle.

Each of the above exercises was done while standing, and each stretched certain muscles.

With your warm-up stretching completed, for a minute or two, slowly begin walking. Now you can speed up for your regular 20-minute work out, checking your THR as you go.

After your workout is over, slow down for a minute or two, and then stop and begin your cooling-down stretching exercises. These can be the five described just above.

Exercise is one of the most helpful of the Eight Laws of Health, but it works closely with all of the others, especially rest and proper diet. How thankful we can be to God for these many blessings.


"By active exercise in the open air every day, the liver, kidneys, and lungs also will be strengthened to perform their work.—Counsels on Health, p. 54.

"Without physical exercise no one can have a sound constitution and vigorous health; and the discipline of well-regulated labor is no less essential to the securing of a strong, active mind and a noble character."—Counsels to Teachers, p. 307.

"Exercise aids the dyspeptic by giving the digestive organs a healthy tone. To engage in severe study or violent physical exercise immediately after eating, hinders the work of digestion; but a short walk after a meal, with the head erect and the shoulders back, is a great benefit."—Ministry of Healing, p. 240.

"Such exercise would in many cases be better for the health than medicine. Physicians often advise their patients to take an ocean voyage, to go to some mineral spring or to visit different places for change of climate, when in most cases if they would eat temperately, and take cheerful, healthful exercise, they would recover health, and would save time and money."—Ministry of Healing, p. 240.

"Exercise in a gymnasium, however well conducted, cannot supply the place of recreation in the open air."—Education, p. 210.

"What does a person do who has been sitting at his desk for many hours and is tired? Does he lie down? No! He takes a walk. What do children do when they come home from school and are tired? Do they go to sleep? No! They run to the playground. If the body is completely exhausted by strenuous labor, a long hike, a wash-day, or a moving-day, one recuperates best by lying down and permitting the organism to rest. However, if only a certain part of the body is tired—for instance, the brain by long calculations, the hands from many hours of typing, the eyes by too much reading or sewing, or the legs when one has had to stand very long—the tired limb or organ recuperates best if other rested parts of the body are active.

"If one lies down, all the activities of the body are curtailed; in a manner of speaking, the vital furnace of the body is banked. The heart beats slowly, the blood vessels contract, respiration becomes shallow, and the exhausted brain sleeps, so that all the organs are at rest. On the other hand, if one enters into some new activity, if after a long lecture one goes out into the fresh air, thus exposing oneself to new impressions and stimuli, to the cool air and the fragrance of flower beds, respiration is increased, the blood circulates faster, and the glands are more active, thus facilitating the elimination of waste products from the exhausted organ. If you are totally exhausted, go to sleep! If only part of your body is tired, go for a walk or take a swim, engage in athletics, or occupy yourself with your garden. There is no better form of rest for an exhausted organ than the activity of neighboring organs."—Fritz Kahn, "Man in Structure and Function," Vol. 1, p. 136.


We not only want to maintain a daily physical exercise program, we also need to stretch our spiritual muscles each day as well. Not only are we to accept Jesus as our Saviour, we are to work with Him to help minister to the needs of others.

Just as God gave, we need also to give. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).

Jesus told His followers: "Freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8). He also said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35).

Because we have been comforted, in Christ's strength we are able to comfort others. "[God] who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (2 Corinthians 1:4).

There are many in the world who need our help. God calls for helpers, and we must answer the call. "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." (Isaiah 6:8).

We are to do the work which Jesus did. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." (Isaiah 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18).

We live our faith, we share our faith, and we come to Jesus to renew and deepen our faith. As we pray and work, work and pray, our experience deepens, and others are helped.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods." (Matthew 24:45-47).

Every follower of Jesus is assigned the task of helping those around them, and sharing with them the wonderful gospel message of the forgiving and empowering grace of Christ, and the hope of eternal life through Him.

"And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15). "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Romans 1:16). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14).

God purposes to use you and me to help many souls who are living in darkness. "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." (Isaiah 42:6-7).

We can help the poor and the needy. "I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out." (Job 29:16). "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27). "He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper." (Psalm 72:12). "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." (Proverbs 21:13).

We can also minister to the sick, and help them understand the importance of obedience to God's commandments so they might remain in better health. "Pray for one another, that ye may be healed." (James 5:16). "Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments . . and the Lord will take away from thee all sickness." (Deuteronomy 7:11, 15). "[God] who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." (Psalm 103:3).

As we minister to the needs of others, and bring them the good news of salvation, through the forgiving/enabling grace of Christ, we have the promise that we are working with the angels of God. Even though our efforts may not be appreciated by those on earth, yet the God of heaven accepts us. Thank the Lord!

"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

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