February 6, 2003

Brody '62 Lectures on Fitness, Diet, Exercise

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“Today at 61 I think I feel better and I even look better than I did when I was 16,” Jane Brody ’62, science writer and New York Times Personal Health columnist, said to students and faculty last night in Statler Auditorium during a lecture entitled, The Relationships Between Food, Diet and Health.


As an author of nine contemporary health books, Brody spoke from her personal experience as well as from her experience at Cornell as a biochemistry major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

She focused on what students today can do to maintain healthy lifestyles in the college environment by eating well and exercisingdaily.

Exercise boosts the body’s energy levels and increases the heart’s ability to pump blood, so the body functions with greater efficiency. According to Brody, one who exercises can actually save time by maintaining a more efficient body.

“Exercising every day takes time in the short run, but in the long run, exercise doesn’t take time … it makes time because you are more efficient and more energetic,” she said.


Brody noted that people in their teens and twenties are less likely to notice the immediate impacts of unhealthy eating because young bodies “seem to bounce back to normal” after having a lunch consisting of chips and soft drinks instead of sandwiches and salad. However, she warned that the damage is occurring even though the immediate, physical effects are absent.

“Chances are damages will surface when you least expect them to … but it’s neither difficult, time consuming nor costly to live healthily,” she said.


Drawing from her own experiences at Cornell, Brody said that she might have been “the only one of many Cornellians who voluntarily took eight semesters of physical fitness.”

Brody encouraged students to take advantage of the numerous activities and sports lessons that are available for free through Cornell Fitness Centers and other outdoor programs, noting the “myriad of physical and mental benefits” that a person can gain from participating in regular physical activity.

Brody deemed exercise “the best tonic for the body.”

She explained that people who exercise regularly sleep better, derive more rest out of fewer hours of sleep, experience increased mental activity, develop quicker reflexes and have less difficulty controlling weight.

“Exercise not only burns calories when you’re exercising, but continues to burn calories even after you’re finished working out,” Brody said.

She maintained that exercise is also the key to strong bones. Vitamins, pills and supplements cannot make up for the calcium that functions in conjunction with exercise to form healthy bones.

Brody also discussed the health hazards of smoking and said that cutting back on smoking is not good enough.

She addressed issues of weight gain and smoking, stressing that people don’t necessarily have to gain weight after they quit smoking if they eat and exercise properly.

“Too many young women smoke because they’re afraid of being fat,” Brody said.

Dispelling the notion that weight gain and quitting smoking come as a pair, she mentioned a study that showed that “cigarettes were keeping the weight of smoking women artificially low.”

“When the weights of women who quit smoking 10 years earlier were compared with the weights of women who had never smoked, both groups of women weighed the same,” Brody said.

Lastly, Brody discussed nutritional concerns regarding proteins, fats and carbohydrates, emphasizing “moderation not deprivation, variety not limitation and gradual evolutionary change not revolution” in terms of food consumption.

“The presentation was very well put together and Brody gave me a lot of general guidelines to follow [in keeping a healthy lifestyle],” said Meghan Fitzpatrick ’05, an aspiring health writer.

Prof. Bob Gravani, food science, coordinated the lecture in collaboration with Prof. Dennis Miller, food science.

“We wanted to address issues in the press about nutrition from the perspective of someone who is writing about scientific and health issues,” Miller said.

Gravani and Miller teach a food choices and issues class in which Brody will guest lecture today.

“We hope to give students greater awareness on food, wellness and health issues,” Gravani said.

For Brody, health issues are a matter of life and death.

“People forget that the body is the temple of the mind … and failing to care for the body would shorten the time you have to function at all,” Brody said.

Archived article by Janet Liao