Get in shape and get off the meds

September 1, 2012

Q: Recently I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My doctor says I need to start working out to regain my health before it gets worse. Have you worked with people who have the same issues I have? Do you think I can improve my health and get off the medications I was recently placed on?

A: When I was a high school football player, my focus was on lifting weights and getting as big as possible. I stuffed my face with anything I could get my hands on with the hopes of packing on muscle mass.

Guess what? It worked great right up to the point when I went for a physical. I had gained 90 pounds in 3 years and was the starting nose guard for my football team, but my blood pressure was so far off the charts the doctor immediately put me on medication at age 16.

That was a long time ago, and I have since changed my focus from lifting for size to being fit. For me, life after football was spent learning to get into a different type of shape including frequent cardio, a healthy diet and proper lifting, and guess what? My blood pressure quickly returned to normal.

I believe my story can be compared to the lifestyle of the average American in the sense that although most people aren’t trying to get huge, they are increasing in size and body fat with each passing year.

Studies show the average American gains approximately 1 pound of fat and loses 1 pound of muscle annually starting at age 30. At this rate, most people will be obese by age 40, and experience all the unpleasant health disorders that come with it, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Regardless of whether this happens because of inactivity or aging, one thing is for sure: Staying in shape can level the playing field.

Weight training 3-4 times a week will ensure that you preserve valuable muscle to keep your metabolism burning strong the way it’s supposed to. It will also prevent injuries, relieve stress, and improve balance, posture and bone density.

Cardiovascular training will help burn extra calories and keep extra weight off. It will also help keep your heart and lungs strong and your body mobile. It has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and will give you better quality of life.

Learning to eat to live, not live to eat, will allow you to maintain a great shape. Feed your body with foods such as lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are proven to promote good health and reduce weight gain. Saving the ice cream, cookies and cake for treats instead of using them as replacements for meals will go a long way when it comes to staying healthy.

I believe many people today accept the fact that they need medications, but I am living proof that many of the health conditions Americans are facing today are caused by poor lifestyle habits and can be changed with a little willpower.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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