End and Begin
Do one good deed every day. Sounds like one of those New Year resolutions, doesn’t it? It is actually the first step to improving your health. Who knew? Performing charitable acts, even very small ones is one of the surest steps a person can make towards having a healthy and happy life. This series has as its focus the spirit of our living. Practicing philanthropic acts is one of the simplest yet most rewarding things we can do. Giving works both for the giver and the recipient and there is no better day to remind you of this than today, Yom Kippur. The Jewish day of atonement and beginning anew.
In 2013 over forty international studies were examined and the evidence compiled indicated that volunteering and doing good deeds can lead to over a twenty percent reduction in mortality rates. In other words, living, even just a little bit, for someone else means you yourself can live longer. Pentecost is often call the “Ordinary Time”. This Pentecost, Pentecost 2016, we are exploring how to improve our own living by giving. I have suggested one way each day to improve another’s living as well as your own that did not require a great deal of money or time. Hopefully we are living each day so as to make this ordinary time extraordinary living.
Many people think only millionaires can be philanthropic but the truth is we all have something to give. For example, we each have twenty=four hours each day. Seven to eight of those hours need to be allocated for work while another eight are usually set aside for work. A healthy travel time to and from work is no greater than one hour each way and eating meals should take between forty-five and sixty minutes. That still leaves three hours: 8 + 8 + 2 + 3 = 21. Of course personal hygiene and getting dressed should factor into the day as well as some light entertainment. Still you could probably find time to volunteer one or two hours a week.
One study yielded the results that senior citizens who donated at least one hundred hours a year were twenty-eight percent less likely to die than their peers. That is one hour every three days, give or take. It translates into two hours a week or 104 hours. “But that’s not a magic number—it could be 75 hours or 125,” says study coauthor Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. “The important thing is that you’re doing it regularly.” Doing good is not just good for older people, either. Another study revealed children saw a drop in their cholesterol when volunteering.
Not everything needs to be done for someone else. Starting the day off with doing something good will help us be fit. Take for instance the seven minute exercises that are so popular right now. You can google them or search for an app on your smart phone but here are seven that take seven minutes to do. I know what you are thinking – I have not any extra time; my schedule is packed. Well, there are one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes in each day – yep, 1440. If you do not think your body is worth 1/205.714286, then you have some serious mixed-up priorities. Seriously, mixed up priorities.
I mentioned these exercises when we first began this series but I think they are worth repeating. Sometimes we tend to reject doing the same thing when really we should appreciate the experience and value such effort can afford.
First let’s start with every school-aged child’s favorite exercise – the jumping jacks. One jumps into a position with arms stretched upward and out towards the sky and feet also outward. The body resembles an “X” when this is done properly. Some of us, however, have passed the age of jumping. You can still put your body in this position. Do this rapidly for one minute (or longer. There are no penalties if you managed to spend fifteen minutes a day doing these instead of just seven!). Starting with your feet together and your arms at your side and then jumping or hurriedly moving into position with your arms above your head and your legs wide apart is great for your cardiovascular system. This is a great exercise to improve one’s stamina and endurance and life does require that. It will also, over time, increase your flexibility and circulation. The human is not a vase. It was not created to sit still.
Exercise number two is a wall sit. Stand with your back flat against a wall and slowly lower yourself to a sitting position or halfway down the wall. In other words, pretend there is an imaginary chair and you are slowly sitting in it. If you are really stiff or have knee problems, take this exercise very slowly. None of these should be done without considering your own personal condition and health status. Remember each of these exercises is done for one minute so don’t try to win a world record doing wall sits on the first day. Doing it has benefits, even if you only manage two or three at first. Going slow is fine.
Next comes the squat and this is simply doing the same thing as the wall sit without the wall. Hold your arms out front and slowly lower your body to a squatting position, going as low as you can. If you need to, start holding onto a chair. Again, we are aiming for flexibility and mobility, not a gold medal.
The next two exercises also involve the entire body and can be done holding onto a chair if you need. The lunge is everybody’s favorite silly walk. Move down a hallway, taking a bit longer steps than normal and lower your body as you go. Ideally, the knee-bend results with your leg at a ninety-degree angle but any angle is fine for the beginner. Most of us do not sleep in our kitchen/bathroom/closet. Even someone in an efficiency apartment has to move around their living space. Doing lunges while you go to the closet or the bathroom to shower combines the act of getting ready for work or school with exercising.
Another great exercise to do while getting ready to leave for your busy day is high knee running. The high knee exercise involves lifting your knees to your waist and yes, holding onto a chair to do this is fine. Please lift as fast as you safely can – emphasis on safety, especially when you first begin this. Like the lunge, this exercise helps improve your core or central body’s strength. Our torso supports us so we should support it, after all. Both the lunge and high knee running also improve flexibility and balance as well as tone your abs, thighs, and derriere muscles.
The next exercise is one you can do in the shower or immediately after toweling dry. If you are into exercising daily, then you probably are already giving your body seven minutes and push-ups are a regular part of your daily regimen. If they are not, then please add them. However, for the rest of us, doing a push-up, even the thought of one, stops us. You can do a standing push-up, though, against a wall; hence, the shower. Standing facing a wall, place your hand at should height. Position yourself about eight inches from the wall and with your palms flat against the wall, lean in. Then push yourself back into standing up straight. Moving on to regular push-ups is permitted but this form of push-ups will also provide you benefits.
My last suggested exercise is really the first one you should do because you can do it in bed. Of course, doing it on the floor is also permitted and again, don’t be surprised is your small pet think you are a new couch. This exercise is called the plank and wins the prize for all-round benefits. In fact, because it seems so simple you might just skip it but please don’t. In exercise, as in life, sometimes the simplest things yield the best results.
To do a plank, one simply holds one’s body off the bed or ground in a straight line. This is done by bending elbows and resting the arms on the bed or floor and then pushing up with toes remaining on the bed or floor. Your body will have the appearance of an incline or plank. This may sound really simple but trust me, it is not. Getting into position is easy; holding it is difficult and requires great overall strength. Most of us do this in bed at some point when turning over. Start out small and hold for ten seconds and work your way up to one minute. The plank is wonderful for core conditioning and also for good posture, balance, and other muscles we need to go about our busy lives.
Give yourself seven minutes a day. You will burn more calories, build muscles, improve your blood circulation and have more energy. You cannot be good for anyone else if you are not good to yourself. While you are doing these exercises, remember to repent for those things that were not – shall we say – in anyone’s best interests. We all make mistakes and even sometimes are unkind. While you are inhaling and exhaling, take a few thoughts of “I’m sorry; I want to do better; I hope to be better.
Maya Angelou once said “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” One does not have to be Jewish to recognize the need for review, confession, and optimism in tomorrow. It is something we should all live each and every day.