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Total Fitness: In 30 Minutes a Week (Simon and Schuster, $6.95) is a book with a message. The message is that Total Fitness made the bestseller list, which probably proves that people have been reading books when they should have been exercising.

Total Fitness: In 30 Minutes a Week is a title that will catch your eye if it is not already fatted shut. Coauthored by Laurence E. Morehouse, Ph.D., and Leonard Gross, writer, the book is a thriller, because it is assumed by the average loafer that total fitness can only be achieved after a concentrated thrust of dashes and duck walks, followed by a two-course meal of seeds and bark.

The text concerns itself with something close to our hearts, fat, or in Dr. Morehouse's considered opinion, "pendulous masses hanging on your body," or in my opinion, pleasant pendulous masses hanging on your body.

I told the woman in the bookstore, "I want this book for my fat cousin," and she said, "So does everybody," and she told me to do 150 sit-ups a night and buy a $25 biography.

"Buy the biography," the bookstore owner said, "and lift it over your head 150 times a night."

Consider my diet. I have been on some exotic ones, such as the sweet potato diet, which stipulated that a person could eat as much sweet potato as he wished, while losing six pounds a week, as long as he kept moving so as not to root.

Dr. Morehouse's weight-reduction program is based on gradual weight loss. By eliminating 200 calories a day while burning an additional 300 calories a day, you will whittle off 3,500 calories a week, or one pound of fat.

Various ways to burn calories are listed, including tennis (7.1 calories are burned a minute) and golf (five calories a minute, which is good news to us golfers because I thought snoring used more calories than golf). Dr. Morehouse implies that by merely doing routine activities briskly, you can easily get rid of 300 calories a day. Also, with gradual weight reduction, as opposed to a crash diet, your clothes won't fall off at once.

The beginner's fitness-building exercise program is as effortless as the weight-reduction plan. It is predicated on using your pulse as a speedometer, and exercising to your heart's capabilities. The initial 10-minute program involves such compassionate exercises as the pushaway (pushing yourself away from a wall), the sitback (a reverse sit-up) and a choice of activity that will raise your heart rate to the proper level for five minutes.

In addition to being slimmer and fitter than I was 30 minutes ago, I am also glibber, because in the book Dr. Morehouse discusses 15 fitness myths, my favorite being that big muscles make you stronger. I told a friend of mine who went through a $125 muscle-building course of this myth, and it was verified when his $45 forearms couldn't tear Dr. Morehouse's $6.95 book in half.

Although some exercises seem geared for the executive whose most recent exercise was sniffing wine, even a reasonably fit person can learn something from the book. I learned that you can lose weight or become fitter without injuring yourself.