Tag Archives: exercise

>Time for exercise

>The Life and Style section of the Wall Street Journal has several articles on exercise today, this being the start of the annual post-holiday fitness season.

The lead article is about Dr. Paul Williams, whose studies of recreational runners reveal that the more people exercise, the greater the health benefits. The Journal reports that Williams is shunned by all the public health guidelines committees because they are afraid that his data will upset people so much that they’ll get discouraged and stay seated on the couch, stuffing themselves with Twinkies.

Yet it’s been shown, time and time again, that the “start with just a little bit of exercise” approach fails because a little bit of exercise yields little or no results, and the person gives up.

Reading the article on Williams, I realized what the problem with the gradual approach is. It’s time.

Johnson’s critics are insisting that he wants everyone to start off spending lots of time doing aggressive exercise, and I think that’s a straw man. I think he wants people to spend lots of time exercising, but that it needn’t be aggressive.

The problem with the “little bit of exercise” approach is that it offers the delusion that you can get results with very little time invested — popping into the gym once a week, or doing a 15 minute walk three times a week, or playing soccer every Sunday. And of course, none of those approaches will have much of a fitness effect (and it’s very likely the weekend warrior’s soccer game will lead to an injury). The pitfall is that this approach fails miserably when it comes to getting people in the habit of scheduling time for fitness — which is often far more difficult than the actual fitness activities themselves.

What if the little bit of exercise were very gentle, easy exercise (walking or beginning yoga) but the person committed to doing it three or four hours a week? There would certainly be some aerobic, balance, or flexibility effect right away. And by increasing speed, or intensity, or adding something like swimming or belly dancing or a weights workout, the four-hour-a-week exerciser would soon be get some of the profound health effects Williams is touting.

>Walk with me

>This article in Shine quotes a Rutgers researcher who explains why couples who exercise together are also more connected. (The comments readers have on the article shed light on why couples who don’t exercise together might get disconnected!)

I go to belly dancing and power yoga classes on my own, but once a week the Scholarly Gentleman and I take an Iyengar yoga class together.

How much does this help our relationship? Not sure. But I have noticed that it helps us come home from class and prepare and enjoy a much healthier dinner than we would usually eat. Last night I stir fried garlic, a hot pepper, ginger, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, and tofu with a mushroom broth sauce. This is a Szechuan recipe I learned from a New Haven restaurant and martial arts center many years ago. We put the stir-fry on brown rice, and it was delicious.

>Food for thought, preferably at home

>An Australian study presented at the 2009 European Congress on Obesity was about neither Australia nor Europe. It was about America, and it said that Americans are fat because they eat too much.

Analysis of data on American food consumption from 1970 to 2002, correlated with increases in weight, found that the new obesity epidemic among American children was pretty much entirely explained by increased calorie intake, with decreased physical activity level playing a less significant role than previously thought.

The role of over-eating among American adults accounted for most of the increase in adult obesity; a lower level physical activity (documented in many earlier studies) was a secondary factor.

A spokesman for the American College of Cardiology, reacting to the Australian study, put a lot of the blame on eating out, saying that people eat significantly more — as much as 500 calories more — when eating out than when eating at home.

>Making exercise less of a pain

>Kinesiology professor Robert Motl, a former competitive bicyclist, is studying the effect of caffeine on people doing vigorous physical exercise.

His results indicate that “caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently during cycling, across different intensities, across different people, different characteristics.”

Does this reduction in pain result in improved performance? I, personally, don’t care. Reduction in pain, for me, would increase my enjoyment of exercise and my willingness to do it for 90-minute periods three times a week. I’m going to grab a shot of espresso before my Trailer Park Yoga class tonight and will report the results. Something tells me I’ll be wide awake!

(Yes, the Trailer Park Yoga classes with Susan are starting up again, and will be available for the next few months on a drop-in basis. The location is in Fremont. Please contact me for details if you’d like to attend, or check out one class as a guest.)

>Time crunch

>I’m in the middle of separating from my husband, attempting to refinance the house, and my writing business has suddenly gone into high gear.

More time spent in negotiations, digging through financial records, and turning out project work on deadline means less time to work out. And, of course, my health isn’t the greatest with all this going on.

Because I’m now likely to miss one, or even two, of my three weekly exercise classes, I’ve started putting in a daily 30-minute power walk during lunch. This means setting my iPhone alarm to 30 minutes, turning on the iPod music (usually bluegrass) and walking 40 long blocks (and a bit more) through the neighborhood. The alarm lets me enjoy the walk without checking the time, and using the iPhone means that I don’t miss any phone calls.

What I really like is the way the music automatically resumes as soon as I get off the call.

But I’m missing the yoga. I did yoga in the back yard one day last week, and it was fascinating to see how beautiful the garden looked from strange, upside down positions.

>Diet or exercise?

>Ten years ago, while editing a magazine for a major healthcare system, I asked several doctors which they would prefer their patients do, watch their diets or focus on exercise.

The doctors all said “exercise.”

Mike Howard at the excellent Diet Blog reports on a study that compared people on diets with people on exercise programs, measuring not just weight loss but body fat percentage.

I was betting that exercise returned the best results, but what the study found was far more complex.

Unfortunately, the criteria I was most interested in were apparently not part of the study — measurements of hips, waist, chest, upper arms, and thighs.