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The Fountain of Youth

Author: Kirk Pappas, M.D.
August, 2014 Issue

How and what do we want to role model? Exercise affords a positive message of active living that promotes health.

Well, I guess I have your attention now! I know you’re the kind of person who wants to live a long, happy, less painful and better life, so please keep reading. The “legend” of Ponce de Leon was that he explored what is now Florida, looking for the “Fountain of Youth.” What he was searching for was already known by physicians for more than 3,000 years. However, we haven’t always prescribed it with the same vigor as our traditional “medicines.”
If I had a medicine that would help you live longer, have a better spirit, better memory and reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer and depression, would you take it? Would you demand it? What would you pay for it?
Hippocrates stated: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
Aerobicexercise is the medicine of life.And the magic number is 150 minutes per week, best done in 30-minute sessions, five times per week. Our society, media and communities are obsessed with “The Obesity Epidemic.” But the challenge here is to best understand that the real opponent is inactivity. Lack of activity is what produces added weight given no dietary changes.
Reading this article as a business person and leader, you know we all have employees, not to mention our families. How and what do we want to role model? Exercise affords a positive message of active living that promotes health. The literature is deep with evidence, and quoting the majority would take the entire article. But you can easily find some at
Meantime, I know some of you might be from Missouri and live by the motto, “Show me.” So here are my three favorite reasons with evidence for exercising.
1. Exercise is as effective or better than medicines at preventing death after heart attacks and strokes (see
2. Exercise promotes a positive quality of life and purpose and reduces stress (see
3. And a perk for all of you with employees: Your workers who are physically active have a lower chance of being absent, are more productive and have fewer complaints of muscle aches and pains (see

Keys to success

While the goal is 150 minutes per week, every bit counts. We all need a starting point, and starting small is great. Even 15 minutes per day is a good way to start. Tip: How about your next meeting? Can you make it a walking meeting?
Tell someone else and find a partner. People are more likely to continue to exercise if someone is looking out for them. The social connection, including sharing why you want to exercise and inspiring each other, even experimenting with social media, is a strong way to stay active.
Keep it local. There are many easy ways to exercise, adding walking to meetings as suggested, walking during breaks, walking the dog and, in the North Bay, we have many places to explore. Try this link sponsored by Sonoma County Health Action. It is a great way to get connected: (or for Spanish speakers).
Keep the pace simple. You can use fancy heart rate monitors if you like, but the “sing test” works just fine. While walking for exercise, you should be able to carry on a conversation, but not sing a song.
Make progress. All of us, including world-class athletes, follow the same progression of adding exercise when ready: 10 percent per week. So if you’re walking 15 minutes five times per week, then next week should not be 20 minutes x 5 (100 minutes) but about 85 minutes per week. You can also add in some jogging for walking; one minute jogging for nine minutes of walking.
Today is a great day to start—not just for you but also for your family and loved ones, who are all looking forward to next year’s graduations, vacations, weddings, anniversaries and more. Exercise is the key to get you there. It’s a “fountain of longevity, happiness and health.”
In future articles, we’ll explore more ways to prevent disease, promote health and empower all of us to live longer and healthier.
Kirk Pappas, M.D., is a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor. He’s the physician-in-chief of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa.


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