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Dr Ken Cooper’s Steps to Good Health Gets a Much Needed Upgrade


Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, now 86 years old, is the most famous living fitness guru. He is the father of the aerobics movement whose books, medical clinic, research and lectures have probably turned a million or more couch potatoes into regular exercisers. Cooper’s first book, Aerobics, is somewhat reminiscent of the wisdom of Schopenhauer, who noted that all reforms have three stages: first they are ignored, then they are vigorously opposed, and finally they are accepted as self-evident.

I know Dr. Cooper. He and his wife Millie are much admired. Only a crank would crack, crack, dent, or piss on its job. Really – who would dare submit a negative review on any recommendations from this renowned exercise guru? Well, I would like to.

I take exception to Cooper’s much-touted Twelve Steps to Good Health. Cooper’s 12 Steps should not be confused with the better known 12 Steps of Alcohol Anonymous, Joshua Rosenthal’s 12 Steps to Boost Your Health for Life, or the book, Twelve Steps to Psychological Good Health and Serenity by Gabriel MA Segal. I’m not interested in these 12-step approaches either, but this review is only about the typical 12-step recommendations of Dr. Cooper.

Before I describe my concerns, take a look at Cooper’s Twelve Steps to Good Health.

1. Stop using all tobacco and drugs.

2. Limit alcohol to no more than 10 drinks per week.

3. Start the exercise.

4. Use less salt, eat less fat—especially animal fat.

5. Eat more fresh vegetables.

6. Avoid obesity.

7. Get the right nutritional supplements, including calcium and the antioxidant vitamins C, E and A.

8. Faster your seat belt.

9. Avoid sun exposure.

10. Get vaccinations.

11. Get adequate prenatal care.

12. Get regular medical checkups.

The steps are clear and obvious (avoid smoking and obesity), overly general (how much more of the good stuff, how much less of the bad stuff?), questionable (taking supplements), and, in one case, don’t apply to half the population (prenatal care )

In short, it’s not much. From such an accomplished fitness expert, I think we should expect 12 innovative, specific exercise tips that we don’t already know, all pretty specific.

Of course, 12 REAL wellness tips would be better.

Cooper’s steps were retraced

Here is a review of each step.

1. Stop using tobacco and drugs? You’re kidding? This is impossible for most people because they wouldn’t be caught dead or alive with tobacco products. (As for drugs, that depends on the drug.) Anyway, most people don’t smoke or abuse drugs, although pain (opioid) drugs are a serious problem! A substitute step for those who don’t practice this outrageous aspect of self-destruction: Try having at least 23 good laughs daily, more if possible.

2. Ten alcoholic drinks a week? They are too many! Alcohol is fattening, expensive and often contains sugar. Drinking too much alcohol often makes one look foolish. A replacement step: Drink at least eight glasses of water daily.

3. Start exercising? Where were you? On the moon; No one can be well without regular exercise and early illness and death without it is guaranteed unless you die first from an accident or something. Don’t go into middle age without it! A Replacement Step: Increase Your Exercise Program! Do more than the minimum daily requirements to avoid illness. Follow the advice of the late Dr. George Sheehan – be a good animal and move often, with grace and strength.

4. Less salt, less fat? You can do much better. Consider going vegan. Even a half-ass vegetarian or part-time vegan, AKA vegetarian. Doing so will contribute to less animal cruelty and possibly weight loss if you need to lose weight.

5. More fresh vegetables? It depends. It depends on how much you eat now. A Replacement Step: Focus less on eating and more on adding meaning and excitement to life. Cultivate your passions.

6. Avoid obesity? Of course. Good idea. Also make sure to avoid radiation exposure, hungry reptiles, the Republican Party, and bubonic plague while you’re at it. A Replacement Step: Commit to achieving and maintaining a fit body through lifelong exercise and good eating habits.

7. Nutritional supplements? Few need them. The Harvard Health Letter notes that if the supplements actually worked (doubtful for most), they would have risks of side effects as well as benefits. No medication is completely safe, even if taken as directed.

8. Fasten your seat belt? Do you need Dr. Cooper to tell you that? Go the extra mile: make sure your car’s airbags aren’t on recall, drive less and, when you’re driving, never under any circumstances text or talk on a hand-held phone. And drive defensively, assuming other drivers in and around you are mentally impaired and unlikely to drive sensibly.

9. Avoid sun exposure? What planet do you currently reside on? If Earth, this step will be challenging, to say the least. We all need some starlight, but get yours earlier or later in the day whenever possible. Never sunbathe or use a tanning booth and cover up whenever practical.

10. Vaccinations? Sure – annual flu shots, shots for children and, as needed, for travel to dangerous environments. But, put a REAL wellness spin on it – immunize yourself against aggravation. That is, make efforts to avoid associating with negative people, design your environment to support growth and development, and do things that naturally make you feel positive and happy.

11. Prenatal care? Good idea if you are pregnant. A more widely applicable step may have occurred to Dr. Cooper. How about looking for work that is challenging and meaningful, in an environment where you interact with positive colleagues. Also, try to become very, very good at what you love to do with the idea that eventually someone or many people might want to compensate you for it. Example: writing a regular blog for SeekWellness! (I’m still waiting – you have to be patient.)

12. Regular medical examinations? Oh, the humanity, the horror. There are too many medical tests in America. A replacement step: Be more self-reliant. Familiarize yourself with medical self-care – recognize when to see a medical professional.


Dr. Cooper’s steps seem to assume that most Americans and others lead awful, self-destructive lifestyles and are unable or unwilling to think and act in ways that enhance the best potential for a good life. Hmmm.

Come to think of it, Dr. Cooper might be on to something. Most people could benefit from some of his suggested 12 steps to minimize ill health. However, to move beyond prevention to operating in exuberant ways requires a different set of steps or recommendations.

The reformed steps provided above emphasize the positive—using reason and enjoying personal freedoms for an exuberant approach to life. Warning signs, as described in the latest AWR dealing with Disease and Organ Interest Groups (DOIGs), never provide the highest states of genuine vitality associated with optimal mental and physical well-being.

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