URI professor: Play your way into better shape
Psychologist Henry Biller authors Creative Fitness
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 5, 2002 -- Psychologist Henry Biller acknowledges he never could sit as a child. He loved jumping, climbing, running, and playing sandlot sports. While doing so, he found he felt better about himself and had less anxiety and fears, especially after losing both his father and grandfather before he turned 6.
To help others embrace that mind-body holistic approach to life, the University of Rhode Island professor has authored Creative Fitness, published by Auburn House in May. The emphasis is on the importance of self-understanding to create lifelong enjoyable exercise and eating patterns.
"Everybody is creative," says Biller whose book, filled with relevant research and case histories, is aimed at both the novice and the veteran athlete who may be suffering from burnout. "People should personalize their fitness program and incorporate it into their everyday lives," says the 61-year-old professor who is often seen running across URIs Kingston Campus and bounding up flights of stairs. "Create a new dance step with the vacuum cleaner, dribble a basketball, juggle canned goods while putting them away. Try some dynamic muscular tension while sitting in a meeting. Fidgeting is healthier.
"Getting and staying fit is an opportunity to know yourself," says the Warwick, R.I. resident. "Your mind and your muscles work together. If you hate running on a treadmill, youre not going to do it very long. Instead take responsibility for your life, your choices, and your health. Throw away your stopwatch and take a non-hurried lifelong approach to fitness. Do things you enjoy."
Variety is the spice of fitness, according to the professor who recommends a fitness program that includes some reasonably hard and challenging exercise, but not extremely difficult and uncomfortable. "If you cant talk without gasping for air, youre not going to be able to laugh. Slow the intensity down," he says.
As a clinician, Biller has always been impressed with the benefits enjoyable exercise had on alleviating anxiety, depression and body image insecurities. "Whether or not youre in therapy, youre more likely to successfully deal with your problems by getting and staying in shape," he says.
There is a strong connection between feeling well and good nutrition says Biller. "As far as Im concerned the word diet should be ripped out of the dictionary. Depriving yourself only works so long. It cant be sustained. If you hate broccoli and spinach why punish yourself by eating it? Instead, ask yourself what vegetables do you really like? As with exercise, a nutritious variety of foods is one of the keys to adopting a healthy lifestyle."
So is setting boundaries, according to Biller. "Give yourself a daily vacation. Dont wait for the weekend or the summer. Allow yourself time every day to take care of your body. Biller asks: "When you were a child was there ever a day that you didnt want to play? Try dancing to your favorite music for 15 minutes or playing catch with a pillow. Dont miss out on the fun,"
The URI professor, one of the foremost authorities on fatherhood, recommends playful family exercise. "Exercising together provides an opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children," he says. "Rather than hurrying children into organized sports, you can help them develop a good self image, as well as, great fitness habits."
Biller encourages parents to have realistic expectations for their childrens age, ability and agility and recommends helping children express their individuality in both their play patterns and athletic endeavors.
Note to Reviewers: Contact Lisa Webber at Greenwood Publishing Group, 203-226-3571, ext. 3441 to get a complimentary copy of Creative Fitness. You can request a photo by calling the URI News Bureau at 401-874-2116.
About the author
Henry B. Biller is a professor of psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of Rhode Island where he has taught since 1970. He has authored nine previous books including Fathers and Families, Father, Child and Sex Role, Paternal Deprivation, and Father Power. He has also written more than 100 publications including the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation and The Handbook of Developmental Psychology. He has given many invited presentations to organizations including the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. House of Representatives; the Medical Research Council of Ireland and the Johnson and Johnson Institute for Pediatric Services. The URI professor was a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Brown University and earned his Ph.D. from Duke University. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society and serves on the advisory board of the Mens Health Network and is listed in The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.
For Information: Dr. Henry Biller, 401-884-0772, Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116