Jewish World Review June 3, 2003 / 3 Sivan, 5763


If Bush can, we should

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Think you have an excuse not to exercise? You're too busy?

Try being the president of the United States - a man who exercises up to an hour a day, even during times of crisis. He even has a treadmill on Air Force One.

"I thought, 'My gosh, what a fantastic role model,'" says fitness writer Andrew Flach. "The toughest job in the world, and probably the busiest job in the world, and he finds an hour a day to exercise. Even during the war, he's been spending time to go to the gym."

The result of Flach's admiration is "The White House Workout: The Fitness Plan Inspired by President George W. Bush's HealthierUS Initiative," co-authored with RoseMarie Alfieri.

The book, recently released, outlines the four "pillars" of the plan.

The Healthier US Initiative (www.healthierus.gov) was launched in June 2002, with the goals of getting Americans to exercise, eat better, get health screenings and make healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking.

"Although they're simple, they're profound," Flach says of the four pillars. "You can really grab on to them, and anyone can do anything positive to benefit their health."

The launch, held at the White House, included workout demonstrations, children jumping ropes, and booths from different branches of the government involved with health, plus some from manufacturers.

"It was an entire morning devoted to health and fitness," Flach says.

His new book, which is not endorsed by the White House, expands on the four pillars, outlining simple exercises, recipes and health information.

"I have a committed mission to help people change their lives for the better in terms of physical health," he says.

Flach's specialty has been books inspired by workout regimens from different branches of the military.

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He writes books that describe different types of workouts because what motivates one person may not inspire another.

"My job is to find a variety of ways to connect with different people," he says. "You'd think there's only one way to do a push-up, but there's half a dozen or a dozen ways to do a push-up."

"Some people are motivated because their doctor says, 'You need to exercise,'" he says. "Some are motivated because they have a certain goal - to lose a few inches, to drop a few pounds, to run in a marathon."

Being overweight, as half of Americans are, increases people's risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Even Flach's parents both underwent quadruple-bypass surgery, and are now, in their 70s, changing to healthier lifestyles.

"Physical fitness can be pursued by anyone, of any fitness level, any age and any socioeconomic level," he says.

Bush, 56, runs, works out on a treadmill and lifts weights and encourages his staff to do the same, in addition to getting in rounds of golf when he can.

According to his 2001 physical exam, he's in the top 2 percent of men his age in cardiovascular fitness, has a very low risk of heart problems, and has healthy cholesterol levels, Flach says.

The author, who lives in Manhattan, says that many people must choose to exercise, because many cities aren't set up for easy daily walking, as was brought home to him on a recent visit to a Kentucky town.

"I was shocked, because in New York, you can get anywhere you want on foot," he says. In Kentucky, "I couldn't get anywhere without getting into a car and driving 15 minutes somewhere. I understand now how easy it is for people not to get exercise."

In addition, he says, it was a challenge to find healthful restaurant food there.

Even getting up and walking for 15 minutes can get a person going on an exercise program, Flach says. "Just a very small amount of people are getting physical activity as part of their day."

Many of the tips in his book are common-sense instructions that have been recommended by health experts. One of the pillars, however, is less often followed - going to a doctor to get screened for problems such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, colon cancer and other conditions.

"As a nation, we tend to be more reactive than proactive - we don't go to the doctor until we're sick," he says. "You're given a blessing with your body. Take care of it, do what you can, be constant, be vigilant and celebrate when you can."

The authors of the book will not make any royalties off it. All the proceeds will go to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (www.fitness.gov).

"It's something we've decided to do as our way of giving back," he says. "We're not looking to make any money on this project.

"If the president can find time on his schedule for half an hour on the treadmill or half an hour cross-training, that's something that we should take very seriously," he says.

"If the president of the United States can find the time, we can find the time."

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