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.