Ultimate Guide To Fitness!
How much should I work out? What intensity, what exercises? We get this question all the time. The short answer is “it depends”. Chronic diseases, available time, injury history, goals, timelines all play a major part in the equation when it comes to figuring out the right amount of fitness for an individual. But one thing that we know for sure, sedentary lifestyle is DANGEROUS, but so is working out too much! There is a point where fitness stops being healthy and chasing performance become extremely unhealthy and even fatal. We’ll try to explain, and link all research material to the bottom of the post (please read the entire case study not just abstract and conclusion)….
At this point we understand the dangers of sedentary lifestyle. Siting all day at work, sitting while you eat, while you watch TV, and while you drive all contribute to negative effects on the body. Muscle atrophy, slowed circulation, slowed metabolism, increased insulin resistance, obesity, leading to an increased chances of metabolic syndrome are just some of the issues which have been researched (anxiety and depression have limited research when it comes to sedentary populations). Add bad posture while in the seated position and we have additional issues to deal with (rounding your back while seated causes your body to repair it self in that position, so your back ends up “locked-long” while your chest closes in and stays “locked-short”). Obesity rates have been growing over the last 30 years (Figure 1), and are not slowing down even with a fitness company on every corner and healthy fast food options being available. The easiest variable (and cheapest) that we control is movement, so we need to make sure simple steps are taken to minimize the dangers of sedentary lifestyle.
Fight For Hearts has its roots in the competitive sports so we are familiar with this topic. Our board has a two time Olympic coach (Tom Coulter), as well as the winning-est boxer in history of USA (Cam Awesome). We are familiar with pushing athletes to the limit, developing specific adaptations. Take it from us, high level athletes can be very unhealthy! Here are few examples:
One common occurrence in elite level endurance athletes is Atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia) (1). In fact, athletes have a 10x higher risk of developing A-Fib! Arrhythmia is generally treated with a cardiac ablation. Not many athletes can compete at high level after an ablation.
Elite level cyclists have lower bone density mass than general population. Experts believe this is due to cycling being a non-weight bearing activity, and long hours on a bike (and then recovering) impact the bone health negatively (2).
The risk associated with a single triathlon was higher than the annual risk of death for a middle-aged adult in the general population, and also exceeds previous estimates for long-distance running races, including marathons (3).
Death rate inside of the boxing ring increases at lower weight classes. This seems counter intuitive as heavyweights pack the hardest punch. But heavyweights don’t have to step into the ring dehydrated. Lighter weight classes have to “make weight” by often dropping 10%+ of their bodyweight, in addition to a higher punch output. There is not enough time to fully re-hydrate (usually 24hrs) and stepping into the ring dehydrated has a list of problems associated with it. Performance drops when an athlete is as little as 2% dehydrated; reflexes slow down, kidney function decreases and chances of heat stroke increase. It is also believed that the decrease of cerebrospinal fluid increases chances of brain trauma.
So whats the solution? We always have to begin by defining goals, and in our case our goal is health. How do you train for health? We believe that there is a range where we can optimize health (see Figure 2). We know the best predictors of mortality are: Leg strength (4), lean body mass (6), and VO2 max (5), but what does this really mean? Does squatting your bodyweight means improved health or does squatting 2x bodyweight improve your health twice as much? There is no research to back any of the numbers but we believe that there is a point of diminishing returns.
Second point that we want to make is in regards to training for performance. Why do humans chase performance? Most people will never compete at a high level of any sport, and many won’t ever be the best at their own gym, let alone the city or state. But we still spend hours working out, spend money on supplements, and even compromise our health in the process. This is the area that needs to be re-evaluated by each person, and decision needs to be made on what the goal is. We have been spending a lot of time figuring out the most effective ways to improve health through fitness by not only manipulating the most common variables; intensity and volume but also types of exercises (unilateral/bilateral), types of resistance (bands/weights/isometric) and workout density. If you are a competitive athlete and have a chance at being the “best”, then health may get compromise, but for the rest of us constantly trying to improve performance may be statistically significant but practically irrelevant.
Now for the advice…. Our general recommendation is make sure you are moving. Two things that can help burn more calories than any supplement are: getting a stand up desk (if seated during work), and turning down the heat in your house or apartment. Stand up desk can help burn additional 100,000 calories per year, and cooler climate can increase resting metabolic rate (so turn down your thermostat).
Now once you start working out, Stick to the basics. DO NOT copy your favorite athletes workout program. The way an elite level athlete trains now is not how they trained when they were in your stage of development. Stay away from trainers and gyms promising fat loss, or muscle gain, as most are marketing schemes and can’t guarantee results (we will go over the weight loss and diets in future posts). And finally, stay away from trainers that don’t have the education, experience or knowledge to train you. Fitness industry is full of unqualified people posing as coaches, that may have spent more time in the gym than you and can talk a good game. Reach out to us and we’ll explain how to spot one of these ;)
We hope that this post helped see fitness as a much broader field that can be unhealthy on both extremes (sedentary and extreme fitness). If you have any question please do not hesitate to contact us