Dr. Mehmet Oz and his partner Dr. Michael Roizen have written a great book called “You On a Diet,” that provides much needed straight talk on the subjects of nutrition and the need to exercise. I said, “the need to exercise.”  When it comes to the specifics of exercise, the good doctors should stay out of the conversation.

The ubiquitous Oprah Winfrey, who loves to find diet and exercise experts but can’t stick to the regimen set forth by any of them, is giving props and publicity to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen and their new book, “90- Day Live Longer, Feel Younger Plan.”  The features of his plan are; do yoga and lift weights, walk 30-minutes every day rain or shine and adopt a “food is medicine” philosophy and avoid foods that Dr. Oz says belong in a Hall of Shame.”  Of course, this plan is being touted as providing “fast” results.

Of course, “fast” has to be included in any of these pop diet and exercise programs, or else people won’t shell out the 20-or-so bucks to buy the book.  Who wants to hear that slow and steady wins the race when there are people out there who promise fast and easy results?

Dr. Oz has a fitness test and he says all 30-year old women should be able to perform 45 bent-knee, also called “modified,” push-ups while men should be able to perform 35 “real” push-ups.  Dr. O goes on to say that five push-ups can be subtracted for every 10 years of age.

I must say that I’m not very impressed with Dr. Oz’s exercise prescription or his fitness test.  First of all, while yoga is a good supplementary activity there are many other valid, even superior, choices of exercise to be paired with weight training.  Swimming, Pilates and martial arts are but a few of these options.

Giving people the goal of walking 30-minutes every day, rain or shine, is a prescription for failure.  There is no need to exercise every day, and while walking is a great activity, except for beginners and/or the non-motivated, there are much better ways to spend your exercise time.  But for the sake of giving Dr. Oz the benefit of the doubt in that he’s trying to appeal to the masses, I won’t pick the nit of recommending walking. 

However, I do have a big problem with telling people that they have to perform this activity – or any activity – every day. Exercising every day guarantees that the quality of the exercise will diminish over a very short period of time.  Despite what many so-called fitness experts want you to believe, the mind and body wants and needs time to rest and recover from exercise, even from low-intensity/high-volume activities like walking.  And with regard to these kinds of activities it’s more important to take a mental break when following any kind of exercise program.

High-volume/low-intensity exercise is inefficient and very often leads to burnout and/or over training.  After consecutive days of exercise, the benefits of rest and recovery in the form of an off day will do much more than will another day of exercise.  Certainly for the very short-term some people can train every day, and even fewer people at high-intensities, but following a healthy lifestyle plan is a long-term commitment that requires the appropriate mix of work and rest.

Dr. Oz’s push-up based fitness test leaves much to be desired.  For starters, it is woefully one-dimensional.  While push-ups are one of the best exercises you can do, in the broader context of an exercise program there are certainly better exercises, and exercises that can better assess a person’s fitness/capability level. To assert that women should do “girl push-ups” – bent knee push-ups – is to be ignorant of women’s physical capabilities.  Women should and can do traditional, real push-ups. “Girl” nothing, “real” everything.

Over the past two decades, I have had women clients of all ages and ability levels perform perfect, real push-ups.  Right now I have 3 women who can perform multiple sets of 15 or more push-ups.  And there’s no two ways about this, bent knee push-ups are a euphemism for “girl” push-ups. Dr. Oz states that as people age 10 years they can do 5 fewer push-ups, which is absolutely ridiculous. 

Using this standard my 60-years young clients would only have to do 30 “girls” push-ups instead of the 60+ real push-ups that they currently do.  My clients aren’t athletes or even ex-athletes, just real women who work hard and as a result are in great shape.  To express the notion that women and older people can or should do less, or should strive to do less, is to reveal a fundamental lack of understanding with regard to human capabilities.

Dr. Oz’s nutritional mantra that “food is medicine” just furthers the misguided school of thought that eating should be about weight control and avoidance behaviors, and ultimately not eating.  Feeding becomes a joyless exercise that is equated with taking medicine; now there’s a real attractive image.  According to Dr. Oz, one of life’s pleasures should be reduced to the level of taking medicine.  It’s no wonder that disordered eating is rampant and that so many people, particularly women, have poor body images.

Not too long ago equating eating with taking medicine would have be laughed at as being preposterous, now this concept is front and center in a marketing plan to help sell books.  It’s too bad that these doctors have taken this turn and have become just another voice in the crowd of cookie-cutter, misguided diet and exercise programs.  My advice is to read “You on a Diet” and just ignore this new book.


  1. I must comment on your idea that “…while yoga is a good supplementary activity there are many other valid, even superior, choices of exercise…” like swimming and Pilates. I have been doing yoga regularly for over a year now, and I feel that is has benefits that swimming, Pilates, and martial arts simply cannot offer. Yoga increases flexibility and strength, but the real benefits are mental and spiritual. Yoga has taught me how to focus my mind, how to use my breath to relax or feel more energetic, and how to get in touch with my soul. Yoga is not simply exercise, it is a way to become enlightened. Yoga helps me to notice my habitual patterns of thinking and acting so I can change myself for the better. No other form of exercise has the same benefits as yoga.

  2. it’s great that yoga has done that for you. the important think to keep in mind is that as far as the elements of focus and self-improvement are concerned, these are benefits that other forms of exercise can offer, and are really “user generated.” swimming, pilates, weight training and any other physical activity can do the same if the individual wants them to. yoga is a great way to exercise, but hasn’t cornered the market on combining the spiritual with the physical.

  3. I as an exercise science major in school understand where you are coming from on the basis of exercise perscription, but at the same time atleast he’s promoting the fact that yes EVERYONE needs to be getting off of their tushes and get moving. And have you looked at his credentials!? The man is extremely intelligent and doesn’t say much without backing it up without some sort of research. And when you said that there is no need to exercise everyday please explain to me why the surgeon general and almost every thing that I was taught in school suggest that everyone should be doing some form of cardiovascular exercise on most if not all days of the week. This is not only to help with weight loss but also disease prevention. And with your clients they are obviously not the general American population seeing how more than 60% of American adults are overweight and more than 30% American Adults are obese. So while these standards may not be true for your clients they may hold true for the general population.

  4. your weight-centric approach to health and fitness is illustrative of just one of the many problems present in today’s mainstream.
    the obsession with weight as a bench-mark for fitness has created more problems than it has solved, and research doesn’t offer any clearcut evidence that there is a direct link between health and weight. people can improve markers of health, and the problems thought to be associated with excess weight can be resolved independently of weight loss.
    furthermore, as the definition of obesity has been modified over the years, and predictable outcome is that the more people are classified as obese.

  5. I took Dr. O’s suggestions as guidelines, not the be-all/end-all…if one is capable of doing more, then so be it, but if you can’t hit the minimum, then maybe there’s a problem and/or it’s something to strive for. I believe that knowledge is power to make the right choices and certainly Dr. O offers a great deal of knowledge even if his interpretation of that knowledge may fall short (according to you), however, at least he’s putting himself on the line unlike someone like you that is lurking in the background quick to judge the actions of others while you remain dormant…phero

  6. You know, he is not talking to people who are physically active or necessarily healthy. Forty-five girl push ups for women who have never exercised is not a bad goal to aim for. As they build upper body strength, they can add “real” push ups. Girl push ups can be encouraging to a beginner who hasn’t the strength to do one real one. He is promoting movement, flexibility, and strength… for everyone. I can’t believe you had to complain about it.

  7. I have to agree with Sal Marinello. I have a mother in-law (53 years old) who blindly follows Oz’s advice on eating and workouts every day. She walks every day, lifts small five lb dumbbells has 3 times a week, does pilates on non lifting days. She has been doing this for over a year and still has flabby arms can’t and won’t increase the weight of her exercise because she can’t handle more than five pounds. Probably because of over exercise even at low intensity. She claims his plan is a good one, but she is living proof if you get out what you put into a workout. Also addressing the girl pushups. Those are pathetically easy to do even for children. My three year old daughter did two before falling down giggling. Also they don’t engage your core muscles like a traditional “man” pushup. For the exercise science major. I’d ask for a refund on that degree if that is what they taught you. You can exercise too much. Too much can be harmful. Instead of building muscle, too much exercise actually destroys muscle mass.

  8. I have yet to meet one personal trainer or fitness expert who says that yoga is at best a supplemental form of exercise who has himself or herself practiced yoga. While it’s true than many forms of yoga are not adequate forms of exercise, yoga can be and often has components of aerobic exercise, strength building and flexibility. I ran for 25 years, lifted weights for 15, but the yoga I’ve been practicing for 5 years has done more for my body and my health than the others combined.

  9. I am a 56 year old female who started exercising at age 18 because I didn’t want to be fat like my mother. I have been through many exercise fads. They all work. My body is still pretty much the same, not exactly of course. I have only 1 child. Women who have had more children know that it takes its toll on your body.I have kept to a pretty regular schedule of 2-4 days a week, from 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes less, depending on my mood. And I do cheat. Sometimes I let a week go by. I never went crazy, exercising like a gladiator because it wasn’t natural for me. As for regular pushups, they are hard. I do about 15 every couple of days. At one point I was at 45 but it made my boobs look bigger than I’d like. True! Its a great natural boob enlarger. Anyway, listen to your body. Keep to a fairly regular schedule, otherwise you won’t stick to it. Cheat sometimes. Enjoy your exercise. Yoga is now all that I do. And it doesn’t have to be a “supplement” program. 3 to 4 days weekly of power yoga will keep you toned, strong and flexible. Don’t underestimate stretching. If you want to lift some light weights while you watch TV that’s great. Buy an exercise ball and do crunches while you watch. The ball is really comfortable. And on some days its ok to sit on the sofa with a bag of chips. Life is not all about exercise.

  10. Boy was this author overly-critical of Dr. Oz! Fortunately others have already pointed that out in these comments. There’s not much I really have to say now. Thank you.

  11. Great piece. I agree with you on most points. Getting people active, eating smaller portions, and making them aware of what they are actually eating is of great importance. However, I also truly believe that nutritionists know more about nutrition than most and that kinesiologists and other sports specialists know more about fitness and special needs than most.
    Interesting that all these doctors never consult, quote, or credit nutritionists or kinesiologists. Unfortunate that doctors, for the most part, do not study nutrition or exercise science and yet are considered experts whose every word we hang on to. Maybe it’s all about ratings and sales?
    Good going. I think I will subscribe!

  12. For the moderator: Second attempt. Error in first…Please post this one and discard the last one. Delete this sentence too!! Thx
    Joanna Lynn says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    September 18, 2009 at 12:45 am
    Great piece. I agree with you on most points. Getting people active, eating smaller portions, and making them aware of what they are actually eating is of great importance. However, I also truly believe that nutritionists know more about nutrition than most and that kinesiologists and other sports specialists know more about fitness and special needs than most.
    Interesting that all these doctors never consult, quote, or credit nutritionists or kinesiologists. Unfortunate that doctors, for the most part, do not study nutrition or exercise science and yet are considered experts on whose every word we hang. Maybe it’s all about ratings and sales?
    Good going. I think I will subscribe!

  13. Dr Oz and Roizen books are hard to read mainly because of the small print and length. Tedious reading.
    Let’s face it, there are some common sense ways to lose weight. The major one is portion size. Next is eating a healthy snack twice a day in addition to the major meals 3 times a day. Next is fat content of the food you eat. Next is eating more fruits and vegetables. On and on.
    As far as exercise, why not every day? If you really ascertain how much time you sit on your duff doing computer work or watching TV you will find a lot of down time. The body needs more movement.
    It doesn’t matter what the exercise is by the way. Swimming exercises one set of muscles while weight lifting another while walking another. Yoga, Tai Chi etc all have different approaches to help the body. You have to choose what is right for you. Just do it.

  14. in regards to the mother with flabby arms, Dr.Oz is not being your personal trainer. he is simply giving guidlines to a healthier life and ways to lose wieght. lets try a little simple metaphoric math. ok so lets say in an average day you burn 500 calories. if you are eating 1000 colories a day, your left with 500 correct? cut down on your calories. u dont need to starve yourself, lets say you want to eat 5000 calarories (exageration) then you need to burn then you need to burn that many, give or take a few.but eating healthier can and will increase overall health. if you dont belive so then dont worry about it and dont do it. but dont bust other peoples balls that know the facts. my mother is 65 and has no problem lifting more than 5 lbs repetitivly. maybe there is another issue. dont beat down Dr. Oz when he has credible knowledge.

  15. Sal, I just did some research into junkfoodscience.blogspot.com and was very disappointed in what this lady does. If you look at her sources, they are either other blogs (not credible sources), or she uses lines from valid studies out of context. In other words, she spins. Not a good source.

    • If you really took the time to read her content you would see that she references and links to all the data that she discusses and provides her own links in the margin for sites she prefers. If you disagree with her point of view, that is one thing, however, I find her positions and opinions to be sound and valuable.
      I do not think a professor from Tufts University, organizations populated with medical professionals and educators from a variety of disciplines, as well as traditional resources sites are disappointing.

  16. I think that the author of this article protests to much.
    There is nothing wrong with “girl pushups” and those of us who are out of shape may not be able to do “real pushups.”
    I find this article as “Nit Picky”. There is nothing that Dr.OZ recommends that is ridiculous. Honestly you can do the walking he asks for “Everyday” even if you only stay in your house. You can go to the mall. You can do a lot of things and reach that goal… and it won’t hurt you at all to try to get moving.
    I found the author of this article to be unimaginative, nitpicky, and lets face it… a self promoter.

    • Thanks..I am a self-promoter and nit-picky, especially when it comes to helping people reach their potential, which is why all of my female clients from ages 16-65 can do real push-ups and real pull-ups, without EVER doing girl push-ups and using the excuse that they aren’t in good enough shape or too old.
      Also I do protest a lot when people make statements with which I disagree and that are demonstrably incorrect or false.

  17. Sal, I started to lose respect for Dr. Oz when he told Oprah’s audience to poop in the shape of an S. Sometimes I feel like we’re finding out more about Dr. Oz than about what’s good for our health.
    But really, you have to back off from your position that walking every day is potentially bad for a person. Farmers do far more work than that every day–even if they’re observing a weekly sabbath. Fifty years ago, it was a rare person who didn’t walk at least a half hour every day, and there are plenty of New Yorkers and other city dwellers who are not losing any muscle from walking everywhere all day every day.
    The pushups and walking are reasonable bare minimum standards for people who are just starting out to aspire to, not for people who are already able to call themselves healthy to use to excuse themselves from doing more. Surely you’ve noticed with your clients that once people are reasonably fit, they want to stay that way or improve. Those aren’t the people Dr. Oz is targeting with his book. I’m sure he’s happy that you and people like you are there to help your clients take their health to the level beyond the bare minimum.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here