A somewhat sedentary lifestyle combined with regular exercise is turning us into what physiologists are calling ‘active couch potatoes’–and that exercise, no matter how vigourous, doesn’t appear to be counteracting the negative effects of that sedentary lifestyle.
In rats, this lifestyle was found to produce “unhealthy cellular changes in their muscles” and increase insulin resistance and fatty acid levels in their blood. In conclusion: a mostly sedentary lifestyle is bad for us, regardless of exercise habits.
[Studies have shown] that, to no one’s surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. [â€¦]
Decades ago, before the advent of computers, plasma TVs and Roombas, people spent more time completing ‘light-intensity activities’ [â€¦] Nowadays, few of us accumulate much light-intensity activity. We’ve replaced those hours with sitting.
The physiological consequences are only slowly being untangled. [â€¦] Scientists believe the changes are caused by a lack of muscular contractions. If you sit for long hours, you experience no ‘isometric contraction of the antigravity (postural) muscles’. [â€¦] Your muscles, unused for hours at a time, change in subtle fashion, and as a result, your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other diseases can rise.
Informing our friends and family of our resolutions in hope that the social support will encourage us is an effective tactic–as long as these people ‘check-in’ on our progress at semi-regular intervals.
That’s the conclusion from a study where three groups of people had their exercise goals tracked under one of three conditions: a regular phone call from an exercise instructor, a regular automated call from a machine, and a control group receiving no calls.
The results showed that having to report your progress toward a goal drastically increases the amount of effort undertaken–especially when it’s a human checking-in on your progress.
The caller, whether human or computer, asked the participants to recite the amount of exercise they performed during the past week. Participants were then congratulated on any exercise performed, and asked how the level might be increased in the week ahead. When lapses occurred [â€¦] the goal was to impress upon participants the importance of resuming the workout as soon as possible. All questions were designed to encourage rather than to scold.
After 12 months, participants receiving calls from a live person were exercising, as a mean, about 178 minutes a week, above government recommendations for 150 minutes a week. That represented a 78% jump from about 100 minutes a week at the start of the study. Exercise levels for the group receiving computerized calls doubled to 157 minutes a week. A control group of participants, who received no phone calls, exercised 118 minutes a week, up 28% from the study’s start. [â€¦]
Some studies by other researchers have suggested that after eight weeks of regular exercising many people can settle into a long-term habit of working out.
The article also cites a study on how meeting in groups to discuss exercising goals (group-counseling) showed a quadrupling of exercise levels after three months and an even greater jump at nine months (long after the group-counseling sessions ended in month three). By contrast, “the exercise level of a control group rose during the study period but at nine months had returned to near-baseline levels”.
“There is overwhelming evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia”, says the Harvard University psychologist John Ratey, author of the 2008 book on the subject, Spark.
While Ratey propounds the “very clear” link between exercise and mental acuity, saying that even moderate exercise pushes back cognitive decline by “anywhere from 10 to 15 years”, the National Institutes of Health are more cautious:
Looking at reducing the risk of “cognitive decline in older adults,” [the NIH] wrote: “Preliminary evidence suggests a beneficial association of physical activity and a range of leisure activities (e.g., club membership, religious services, painting, gardening) with the preservation of cognitive function.” A few small studies showed that “increased physical activity may help maintain or improve cognitive function in normal adults”.
I’ve written before about the extensive cognitive benefits of exercise, but as Noah Gray (via) says, “it never hurts to reinforce the message”.
After years as a trainer, Mike O’Donnell compiles and shares an extensive list of health and fitness tips.
As Jason said, there’s “a lot of good (and questionable) stuff in this list”. Here are my favourites:
- Diet is 85% of where results come fromâ€¦ for muscle and fat loss. Many donâ€™t focus here enough.
- If you eat whole foods that have been around for 1000s of years, you probably donâ€™t have to worry about counting calories.
- The eat low-fat advice was the biggest health disaster in the last 30 years.
- The smartest trainer I know does not have a website or best selling ebookâ€¦ as he is too busy training real clients. (Related.)
- If you want to get better at runningâ€¦ you runâ€¦ at bikingâ€¦ you bikeâ€¦ at a sportâ€¦ you play that sport.
- There is no one right way for anythingâ€¦ as 20 different ways can get you results.
- Results are just the simple yet important things done on a consistent basis.
- All diets fail over the long runâ€¦.but lifestyle changes last.
- The best thing anyone can do for their health/results is to just try new thingsâ€¦ see how their body adapts and respondsâ€¦ and learn how to take total control no matter life may throw at them in the future.
More for the parents of athletic children, this article from The New York Times‘ Well blog still contains some useful all-round advice on hydration during exercise. In the comments the author also links to this urine colour test for dehydration.
When [exercising children] were offered grape-flavored water, they voluntarily drank 44.5 percent more than when the water was unflavored. And when the drink included 6 percent carbohydrates and electrolytes â€” when, in other words, it was a sports drink â€” they eagerly downed 91 percent more than when offered water alone. Does this mean that parents [â€¦] should be stocking their refrigerators with [sports drinks]? The answer is a qualified ‘yes.’ [â€¦]
But that ‘yes’ has clear and definable limits.Â “Sports drinks are only appropriate in the context of sports, and I mean serious sports,” emphasizes Nancy Clark, a registered dietician and sports nutritionist in Boston, who often works with young athletes. If, however, your 12-year-old or older athlete has begun competing at a more intense level, especially if he or she participates in multiple practices or competitions in a single day during the summer, “sports drinks are appropriate,” Clark says.
So not you or I after our daily workout, basically. The article alsoÂ contains this recipe for making your own sports drink:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 1/2 cups cold water
(Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water then add the remaining ingredients. Approx. 50 calories and 110 mg of sodium per 8 ounces.)