Fitness News & Views
A Publication of Graham Fitness

April 15, 2014 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
Why Do We Have Bunnies and Eggs at Easter?

      The most important day of the Christian Church is Easter Sunday, a day that is celebrated between late March and mid-April every year. Easter, of course, is the annual anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus. But why is it called Easter and why is it accompanied by strange traditions involving eggs and bunnies?
      The origins of Easter predate Jesus by thousands of years. After the flood recorded in the book of Genesis, Noah had a great-grandson whose name was Nimrod. Nimrod was a mighty warrior and politician. He built great cities including Nineveh and Babel, and he was involved in a mystery religion which survived him. After his death, his wife Queen Semiramis deified Nimrod as the Sun-God. In later cultures, he became known as Baal.
      Queen Semiramis later gave birth to an illegitimate son named Tammuz who she claimed was born supernaturally and was the reincarnation of Nimrod. According to the legend, when Tammuz was killed by a wild boar as a young man, his spirit descended into the underworld, but the tears of his mother caused the springtime revival of vegetation and with it the "rebirth" of the son. Each year this mythical resurrection was celebrated with a spring festival.
      This mystery religion traveled around the existing world after the dispersal of cultures and languages at Babel. As a result, Queen Semiramis was known variously as Ishtar, Astarte, Ostera, and Ashtaroth, among others. She became a Mother Goddess and was worshiped as the goddess of fertility, a sort of Mother Nature. Around the world, eggs and rabbits have long symbolized fertility, so they naturally became part of the spring festivals worshipping the Goddess Ishtar (Easter).
      Jesus' death took place around the celebration of Passover which occurs in the spring of every year. As a result, after the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity by Emperor Constantine, the two celebrations meshed. Today, inadvertently, we still pay homage to the evil and adulterous Queen Ishtar when we celebrate “Easter” with bunnies and brightly decorated eggs.
      Where does that leave us with Jesus? Much of Jesus' story sounds like that of Tammuz. He was born by supernatural birth, is acclaimed as the incarnation of God, was killed, and was resurrected. So why is His story different?
      The fact that Jesus' death and resurrection took place at the time of the Passover is very significant. After 9 plagues did not persuade Pharaoh of Egypt to release the Jews from their bondage, God sent the final and harshest plague, the death of all firstborn throughout the country. However the Jews were protected from this death curse by placing the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their door. When the angel of death saw the blood, he "passed over" that household, thus saving it from certain death. Jesus represents our Passover lamb and His blood saves us from the certain death which our sins demand. The bible says, "All (people) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And it says, "The wages of sin is death." Therefore, we are powerless to save ourselves.
      However, God in His love sent His son to pay the price of sin for all men. No mere mortal could have done that, since the sacrifice had to be made by one without sin. This is what makes Christianity unique among all other religions of the world. There is nothing we can do to secure our salvation. We need only apply the blood of Jesus to our doors, or in this case, our hearts.
      Jesus' death paid the price, but it's His resurrection that proved the fact. Without the resurrection, Jesus' followers would have dispersed in fear, and there would be no Christianity today. But because the disciples saw Jesus dead, buried, and alive again, they had the courage to take His message to the ends of the earth, despite the fact that many of them paid for their witness with their lives.
      Resurrection Sunday is the greatest day in the history of the world, but personally, I'd like to drop "Easter" from our vocabulary along with eggs and bunnies to celebrate it.
      Many people in their 50's and 60's are dealing with the demands of aging parents. It can be exhausting work, both mentally and physically. None of us wants to think that we might become a burden to our children or spend our last years in an old-age home of some sort. The desire of most people I know is to remain mentally and physically healthy until the Lord calls them home. So how do we give ourselves the best chance of doing that?
      Consumer Reports studied the issue and came up with a few recommendations:
1. Exercise your brain. The brain is like any other muscle – you use it or lose it. The brain needs to be challenged, and it involves more than working crossword puzzles. Continuing to work at your job or career is one way as long as your work is creative and not a boring routine. But other things that are really good include learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument for the first time, or relearning high school algebra. The main thing is to really challenge the brain.
2. Exercise your body. This is so important. It can't be emphasized enough. You should lift weights in order to strengthen the legs, arms, chest, back, and core. Without strong muscles in your old age, even simple tasks like getting out of a chair and walking can become difficult. And of course, you need a cardio routine as well to keep your most important muscle strong – the heart.
3. Maintain strong social ties. Go out with friends and family regularly, volunteer, stay active in your church. Older adults with strong social ties are less likely to show declines in memory as they age.
4. Believe in God. Spiritual adults are healthier and happier than those who are non-spiritual.
5. Watch your weight. Being overweight can cause a host of physical problems as you age. Eat healthy foods in moderation, and exercise. If you are overweight now, get on a program immediately to lose the excess baggage. The longer you wait the harder it will be.
6. Work on your balance. Falls contribute to more injuries in the aged than anything else. Falls are due to two things primarily, both of which you have control over now: muscle strength and balance. We've already talked about keeping the muscles strong through weight lifting. You can work on your balance by doing things as simple as standing on one foot for 30 seconds to a minute at a time, once or twice a day.
7. Get enough sleep. This means 7 to 8 hours a night for the average person. Naps are excellent too, as long as you keep them short – about 15 to 20 minutes for a great power nap.

     The "science" of nutrition is constantly evolving. Contradictory studies are reported within weeks, sometimes days, of each other. One day you hear butter is bad for you, a week later, it's good for you. So what can you believe? Lisa Young is a professor of nutrition at NYU and a leading expert on the subject. She has a few suggestions for healthy eating which seem pretty reasonable. I haven't seen anything to negate them – at least, not yet. Here are several of them which you might implement if you haven’t already:
Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal has been shown to reduce cholesterol and it's high in fiber, magnesium, and potassium.
Top your oatmeal with blueberries instead of sugar. Blueberries are low in calories, taste great, and are rich in antioxidants. Because of their natural anti-inflammatory agents, they are beneficial in preventing arthritis and other chronic ailments.
Snack on walnuts. Walnuts and other nuts like almonds and even peanuts have heart healthy omega-3 fats that benefit the heart, brain, and skin.
Start your dinner with a salad. This is a great way to get some much-needed vegetables in your diet, and raw vegetables are even better for you than when they are cooked. You can include some fruit in your salad as well for an added bonus. Dried cranberries, raisins, apple slices, and orange sections work great in salads.
Cook with olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with heart health for a long time. It's rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, and polyphenols. Olive oil also makes a good dip for bread instead of butter.
Eat fish. Most any fish is good for you, but salmon, tuna, and sardines are among the best because of those omega-3’s.
Have a glass of red wine with your meal. Don't overdo it. One glass for women, a couple for men is enough. Red wine seems to improve heart health and HDL cholesterol levels, the good cholesterol.
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      Nothing aggravates me more as a trainer than poor gym etiquette. Most of the following rules are just a matter of common sense and common courtesy, but they are violated so frequently that I think it’s time for a little review. So here are a few rules to keep in mind the next time you’re at the gym:
• If you sweated on a machine, wipe it down. I don't see much need in disinfecting every machine you use, although if you feel better doing it, go ahead. But if you are sweating, wipe it off.
• Don't grunt. It's unnecessary and extremely annoying.
• Replace the weights after you use them. This means re-racking the dumbbells and taking the weight plates off machines and barbells when you are finished with them.
• Don't sit on a machine or bench if you're not using it.
• Don't drop weight stacks on a machine or dumbbells or barbells on the floor.
• Don't bang weight plates when you are replacing them and don't slam dumbbells together when you are lifting them.
• Don't hog a cardio or weight machine especially when the gym is busy.
• Don't talk on a cell phone in the gym. Nobody wants to hear your conversation, and don't sit on a machine and text.
• If you are filling up a water bottle at the water fountain, allow the guy who just wants a quick drink to go first.
• When you are lifting, leave plenty of room for others to get to the weight racks.
• Don't lay your personal stuff on benches. Leave your gym bag in the locker room or in other designated areas.

      Let's review some confusing terminology. Sprains and strains are not synonymous. Strains refer to torn or over-stretched muscles or tendons which attach muscles to bones. Sprains are torn or over-stretched ligaments which join two bones together.
      The most common sprain is an ankle sprain which usually occurs when it gets twisted abnormally. The hamstrings and groin (inner thigh or adductors) are the muscles most susceptible to strains.
      In both cases, the best treatment is RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Give the injury time to heal (rest). Ice it to keep the swelling down and ease the pain. Keep pressure on the injured area with an ACE bandage or similar wrap to keep the swelling down and provide support (compression). Elevate the injured body part to reduce swelling by allowing fluids and waste products to drain from the area.

      If you've been working with weights and feel you may have hit a plateau, here's a simple technique that might allow you to bust through it. The technique is called breakdowns, and it's very easy to incorporate into your workout.
      With breakdowns, once you fatigue the muscles you are working, you decrease the weight and do a few extra reps with a lower weight. For instance, if you are doing biceps curls using 20-pound dumbbells and you do 12 reps and are maxed out, pick up a pair of 15-pound dumbbells and do as many extra reps as you can. This method allows you to reach failure twice on the same set. The results can be pretty impressive. Give it a try if you think you've hit a plateau.

      What is a healthy body fat percentage? I get that question from time to time, so let's examine it. First off, keep in mind that you can't have a zero percent body fat because you need about 3 percent minimum in order to maintain your internal organs. Elite male marathoners – the ones that look emaciated – generally have 4 to 6 percent body fat. Some football running backs are in that range as well, whereas their teammates on the line are more often in the 17 to 23 percent range.
      Men who want to display an impressive six-pack need a body fat of 8 or 9 percent or less. For women, that number might be 10 to 12 percent. On the other hand, a healthy body fat percentage for most men is about 15 to 18 percent and women about 19 to 23 percent.
      Measuring your body fat is not as easy as you might think. There are three primary methods: underwater weighing, bioelectric impedance, and skin calipers. Of these, the best is underwater weighing, but it's also the most impractical and most expensive method. Bioelectric impedance which uses a hand-held gauge or a special scale is the easiest, but also the most inaccurate. The use of skinfold calipers is the best all-around method. It is inexpensive and easily administered by most personal trainers, and very accurate as well. Most gyms offer this service for a small charge or in some cases at no-charge.
      Your body fat percentage is an important measurement and you should have it taken three or four times a year. Keep in mind, however that the more body fat you have, the less accurate the measurement will be.

Graham Fitness
Tim Graham
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Nutrition Specialist
Phone: 803-447-8557

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