Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Something's Wrong With This Picture

Today, as I was leaving the physical therapy center where I get my treatments, which is located in the same building as a fitness center, I passed by a young woman who was sitting outside the fitness center. She was dressed out in her exercise clothes and athletic shoes, and it appeared that she had just finished her workout. I almost did a double take, though, when I noticed that in one hand was a bottle of Vitamin Water, which she was guzzling down, and in the other hand, a cigarette that she was smoking. "There's something wrong with this picture," I said to myself.

Obviously, she was interested in her health, and probably more so than the average person, or she wouldn't have been there working out. But as I watched her puff away on that cigarette, I couldn't help but think that any good she was doing for her body by exercising, was simply cancelled out by the smoking. This is substantiated by research. For example, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, cigarette smoking reduces a person's ability to uptake oxygen and deliver it to the muscle cells (which is one of the goals of exercise). Studies have shown that "Smokers have a reduced performance at all levels of physical training, smaller improvement with training, and less endurance than nonsmokers." Furthermore, smokers have higher resting heart rates and lower maximum heart rates than nonsmokers. Young men and women who smoke are significantly more likely to incur exercise-related injuries. And smokers heal more slowly from exercise-related injuries than non-smokers. (You can find these and more statistics on their Web site at I wonder if that young lady realized how counterproductive her smoking is to her desire to be healthy. Probably not.

Now I realize full well that the quest for health is a battle for all of us, and that we each have our own personal struggle with something, whether it's food or tobacco or some other temptation. And I have no idea where that young woman is in her struggle for victory over the addiction of cigarettes. She just might be making progress. But watching her contradictory behavior also reminded me that we are often guilty of the same kinds of senseless actions. Like ordering a salad and soup and then finishing off the meal with a rich, high-fat, calorie-laden dessert. Or being a person who is careful to eat right and get regular exercise, but at the same time is a workaholic, stressed out, and suffering from lack of sleep.

My point here is that good health comes not as a result of adding one or two good habits to our lifestyle while we continue to practice our bad habits; rather, healthy living involves a total, comprehensive, holistic approach to health--one that involves everything we do, and the lifestyle choices we make from morning to night, day in and day out. We'll talk more about that holistic lifestyle in upcoming posts.

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