Jewish Health


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By Harry Katcher


Zumba, Pilates, yoga, jogging, swimming, or watching TV–we all have our “go to” fitness regime (that last one is my pre-stretching activity). Why do we exercise? To clear our heads, to look great, to feel great or to burn off the dessert we indulged in last night? How about this: We should exercise because it’s our responsibility as Jews.

Whoa! What?! Hold on, let me check the Ten Commandments. Let’s see, thou shalt not this, thou shalt not that… nope , not there. How about amongst our Jewish values? Let’s see, Tzedakah, Avodah, ah, here it is! The concept of Shmirat Ha’ guf–taking care of one’s body! This comes from the idea that we are all created in G-d’s image and therefore we have the responsibility to treat our bodies as a gift to be cherished. Hmmm… as I look in the mirror, I’m wondering if this gift is returnable. Over the years I’ve taken care of my body; sort of. I’ve provided it with kosher pastries and chocolate (dark chocolate, of course). And in exchange, my body has smiled. However, looking a bit closer, I see my smile has widened. My thoughts turn from bagels to a muffin top.

OK, so let’s say that this is the year you and I focus on Shmirat Ha’ guf–taking care of our bodies. And what a year it promises to be! The fitness trends for 2015 have emerged and it’s a veritable smorgasbord! (Can you tell I’m hungry?) There’s an activity to fit almost everyone’s tastes (there I go again!)–indoors, outdoors, jump, sit, squat, stretch, curl, sweat and relax. Oooh, I like that last one. Can you tell I’m not the most motivated person out there?

Well, this year is going to be different because I have discovered the single most effective exercise out there! And that exercise is (drum roll please) “The one that you will do.” This bears repeating: The single most effective exercise out there is the one that you will do. If you’ll do it, then it’s the best choice. My wife likes to run. Me? I huff and puff. My friend likes to swim. Me? I splash and sink. I do, however, like strength training–lifting weights, feeling the pump. Yeah, me and Arnold in the gym! That’s my thing. That’s my area of interest. What’s yours?

According to a recent survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), here’s what your friends and neighbors are doing:

Body Weight Training: Think push-ups, planks and pull ups (or as I like to call them: just hanging there)

High-Intensity Interval Training: Tabata, boot camps, etc.

Strength Training: machines, free weights, kettle bells

Yoga: Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, etc.

Senior Fitness: water aerobics, stretch class

Group Training: Pilates, spinning, and more in a group

Outdoor Fitness: mud runs, fun runs, obstacle courses, or just going outside and breathing fresh air

If you have children, take away their smart phones, game consoles and tablets and take the kids with you. If telling them they have a responsibility to G-d doesn’t work, tell them what I told my children: “It’s going to be so cool! Everything you’ll see outside will be in 3-D!”

May you find your muse and exercise in good health!


Harry Katcher is the Director of Communications and Marketing for San Diego Jewish Academy and is also a certified personal fitness trainer.


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