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Physical Activity

Fat-Proof Exercises for Your Family

By J. Ron Eaker, M.D.

CBN.comLooking for practical solutions to that tidal wave of obesity that’s washing over America today? Here are some achievable, commonsense, age-appropriate exercise plans for you and your whole family.

For practical reasons, I have divided the exercise programs into logical age groupings:

  • Children (young at heart)
  • 13–25 years old (still young and loving it)
  • 26–40 years old (hey, I’m almost forty!)
  • 41–50 years old (hey, I’m almost fifty!)
  • 51 years and older (hey, I’m not going downhill; I’m picking up speed!)

Because each age group has specific goals and needs, each program is designed to meet the challenges of that era. Whenever you group such knowingly diverse individuals into categories, certain assumptions are made. Even so, experienced coaches know that the needs of the individual are similar enough that the workout regimens have validity. You will develop your own goals; therefore, every program needs to be molded to your needs while still incorporating the family dynamics. These suggested workouts serve as a template upon which an individualized program can be constructed. However, many people are satisfied to follow them specifically, with excellent results. Remember, you must include family members in your exercise regimen. Modeling is the best teacher.

Refer back to the table on page 157* that outlines minimum activity levels for children. A quick summary shows that kids should get sixty minutes of planned physical activity AND sixty minutes of unstructured physical activity (free play) daily. Understand these are minimum requirements. Also keep in mind that many youngsters are not getting any recess or physical education at school. If your kids are, ask what they are doing and how long they spend in the activities. As I mentioned before, if physical education has gone by the wayside in your school district, fight for its reinstatement.

Kids at this age don’t need a formal exercise plan. They get plenty of exercise if they are allowed to play. That involves two things on your part: providing the opportunity and the incentive. Make sure they have a safe environment to run around and play, whether that is the backyard or the local park, and make sure they have access to it. This may involve some sacrifice and time on your part, but you can do it out of love and the knowledge that you are creating a legacy of health.

Next, you must create the incentive to play because there are so many distractions in today’s world. Turn off the TV, computer, video games, and iPods and turn on the hula hoops, ice skates, Rollerblades, and basketballs. It is the parent’s responsibility to push, prod, and poke the child to be active, as this may not be their natural tendency. The secret weapon is your participation, especially if there are no peers around to play with. Get out with them and have some fun yourself. There is nothing like kicking a ball to work off a little frustration!

Many lifelong habits are established in this important time in a person’s life. Studies indicate that men and women who are fit and active at these ages tend to continue to exercise throughout their life. Exercise becomes a habit that is hard to break! If you are long past this era, don’t fret—it is never too late to start.

Teens are physically able to do many of the structured activities that adults master, so this is a great opportunity to work together, especially if your teen shows an interest in a particular sport. One of my daughters has become interested in basketball, and some of our most meaningful times together are on our driveway as she takes it to her old dad. There was a great scene in the remake of the movie Father of the Bride where Steve Martin’s character is struggling with how to deal with his older daughter getting married. She is outside one evening shooting baskets alone, and he joins her for a game of one-on-one. It stirs fond memories of times past and allows them to feel the strength of the bond they have developed, and this then provides the opening to see eye-to-eye. This reconciliation was all possible because of the time spent in earlier years creating treasured memories shooting hoops.

Men and women of this age are generally more focused on body image rather than long-term health consequences. Therefore, these routines are geared more toward fat-burning and strength training. Even though the primary focus is on external appearance, internally the body is reaping the benefits and laying the foundation for long-term health.

An additional benefit for women from regular exercise in this age group is a major reduction of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms. Actually, this is an indirect benefit for men also! PMS is a real, medically recognized problem that is intimately linked to a woman’s cycle. It is characterized by either physical or emotional symptoms (or often both) that revolve around the luteal phase, or second half, of the cycle. Medical science is rapidly answering questions surrounding the cause and treatment of PMS, but all researchers agree that exercise is a cornerstone of therapy. Regular exercise releases various hormones, such as the endorphins, that have a profound effect on the brain, primarily in the areas that control moods and emotions. Exercise is also known to help alleviate mild depression, largely through the same mechanism. The early years of the reproductive cycle are often when the first signs of menstrual-related emotional and physical changes first appear. Pursuing a consistent fitness lifestyle can reduce these changes.

If you are unsure of the terminology on some of the following exercises, consult one of the books in the Additional Resources section, or better yet, work with a friend or family member who can teach you the proper form and intensity. Check the appendix for some simple instructions on weight-lifting exercises.


Brisk walk for 30 minutes at 70 percent of your maximal heart rate (220 _ your age = maximal heart rate)


Weight training. Start with light weights (5 lbs) you can find at any sports store and gradually progress to higher weights. Do 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.

Upper Body Exercises:

  • Arm curls
  • Lateral raises
  • Bench presses
  • Shoulder presses
  • Abdominal crunches


30 minutes to an hour of aerobic activity (walking, stationary bicycle, running, step class, etc.) for 30 minutes to an hour.


Lower Body Exercises:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Calve raises
  • Abdominal crunches

Do 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.


30 minutes to an hour of aerobic activity


30 minutes of aerobic activity followed by 15 minutes of stretching



Keep in mind that a thirty- to sixty-minute aerobic activity can be divided into fifteen-minute chunks if your schedule demands. You will get maximum benefit from continuous activity, however.

During these years many couples are considering starting or adding to their family. Some couples are concerned about the effect of exercise on their fertility. There are no good studies to date that support the idea that fit individuals have a different fertility rate than their inactive counterparts. The exception is the woman who exercises to the degree that her periods cease. Even in these individuals ovulation can occur, which in turn could lead to pregnancy. This degree of exercise intensity is relatively rare and is most commonly seen in competitive athletes. In general, exercise has little impact, positive or negative, on pregnancy rates. If you are an avid exerciser and are having trouble getting pregnant, you may consider decreasing the intensity or duration of your activity, especially if you tend to have irregular menstrual cycles.

Exercise during pregnancy is also an important consideration of this age group. If you are fit prior to pregnancy, you can continue to exercise during your pregnancy.

“In the absence of either medical or obstetrical complications, pregnant women can continue to exercise and derive related benefits,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Women who have achieved fitness prior to pregnancy should be able to safely maintain that level of fitness throughout the pregnancy and the post-partum period.” 8

This is a simple regimen for women who didn’t exercise much prior to getting pregnant. It is a good starting place for the uninitiated. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


Brisk walking for 45 minutes


Water aerobics or stationary bike for 45 minutes


Brisk walking for 45 minutes


Weight training with light weights. Focus on upper body by doing exercises such arm curls, lateral raises, and bench presses. Avoid lunges and abdominal crunches.


Brisk walking for 45 minutes


Water aerobics or stationary bike for 30 to 45 minutes



For all you folks who are not concerned about pregnancy (okay men, I realize you are feeling neglected at this point), I generally recommend following the same regimen outlined in the 13- to 25-year-old section. Again, realize these are guidelines for someone just beginning an exercise regimen. Many of you will be much more advanced than this, and in that case, keep on doing what you are doing. Work more toward incorporating your family into your activities. Experienced exercisers may need to increase either the intensity or duration to continue to see positive gains in their fitness. As you age, your caloric requirements to maintain normal body functions declines, so to keep balanced you have to burn up more if your intake is the same. That means either eating less or smarter, or exercising harder or longer (or both).

One of the greatest benefits of fitness in these years is the prevention of maladies brought on by aging.

People in this age group are only limited in what they can do by their current health status. An important caveat for this time frame is to include some weight-bearing exercises to help in osteoporosis prevention.


Aerobic activity (aerobics, running, brisk walking, etc.) for at least 45 minutes; more is better.


Weight training, focusing on the major muscle groups. Bench presses for the pectorals, arm curls for the biceps, lateral raises for the back, crunches for the abdominals, leg extensions for the quads, and squats for the rump roast. Here is where a good instructor can walk you through the exercises and make sure you are doing them correctly for maximal benefit.


Aerobics for 30 to 45 minutes. (Cross-training is excellent, so if you are used to only walking or running, try changing for a while to swimming or biking or in-line skating, etc.)


Weight training again


Consider some form of team sport such as volleyball, basketball, or water polo. Many groups such as the YWCA and YMCA have great team programs.


Aerobic activity for 30 to 45 minutes, ideally with the family



This is the age that will encompass the menopause for most women and mental pause for most men. In some women this hormonal shift may trigger physical and emotional alterations that can vary from mildly annoying to life disrupting. Through all of these variations, you can find solace in exercise. Countless scientific studies have shown marked improvement in symptoms, such as hot flashes, with the introduction of a simple exercise regimen. Exercise is also critical in these years to prevent osteoporosis and heart disease. Those who are active feel better about themselves and others.

In this age group the focus is on cardiovascular health and flexibility.


Brisk walk for at least 45 minutes


Pilates, or some other form of active stretching, for at least 30 minutes


Light weights for bone health (a combination of both upper and lower body exercises)


Aerobic activity for at least 45 minutes. (Water aerobics is especially good for those with joint problems and arthritis.)


Stretching activity for at least 30 minutes


Aerobic activity for at least 45 minutes



Keep in mind these programs are merely suggestions and targeted to the beginner. There will be many of you that individually are able to do much more than what is described here, but I’ll bet someone in the family is a beginner. All of these regimens are proven and effective, but none will work without the key ingredient . . . YOU! The road to “someday” inevitably leads to nowhere. Make exercise a priority. Make exercise a tool. Make exercise a family celebration. Make exercise a fat-proofing fuel. Make exercise worship! Now, put down the book and get moving . . . today!


  • The ultimate cure for being overweight is exercise.
  • Shift your thinking from “me” to “us.”
  • Without a family commitment to exercise, fat-proofing falls flat.
  • A one-hour-a-day school physical education program can reduce obesity in kids by 10 percent, which is significant in a world where one out of three kids born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes.
  • Peers play an influential role in your child’s life at this point, so create opportunities for them to be active with their friends.
  • Two things will successfully motivate people to change behaviors: achieving pleasure and avoiding pain.
  • There are many well-recognized psychological benefits of exercise.
  • Exercise is the only proven anti-aging tool.
  • The secret to exercising regularly is responsibility.
  • Three ten-minute exercise sessions in a day can provide health benefits similar to a single thirty-minute session.
  • It doesn’t matter if you are training for a marathon or starting to walk around the block; begin with small steps.
  • The greatest accountability group for exercise is the family.
  • Have family goals as well as individual goals, and write them down.
  • The secret to efficient fitness is making the exercise aerobic and sustained.

Excerpted from Fat-Proof Your Family: God’s Way to Forming Healthy Habits for Life by J. Ron Eaker, MD Copyright ©; ISBN 9780764204135. Published by Bethany House. Publishers Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.



Minimum Daily Activity



No specific requirements

physical activity should encourage motor development


1 1⁄2 hours

30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)


2 hours

60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)

School age

1 hour or more

Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more

These guidelines represent minimum recommendations. You and your child can and should do more.

Source: National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)


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