I am often asked about various fitness related topics. The industry, like most, often changes as do recommendations. Scientists learn new ways of doing studies or gather new data and change their minds. They also try to apply their results to everyone. In some scientific topics, I would agree (like the reason planes fly). But when it comes to health topics, everyone is similar but different. Some things can be generalized but others not.
Below are 15 facts about health and exercise. Keep in mind that everyone is different. What works for one person may or may not work for another.
- BMI is probably lying, the scale might be lying – how do I know if I am “losing weight?” – BMI is based on height and weight. Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been considered obese based on his BMI. Why is it used? It is a simple calculation that doctors and insurance companies can use to generalize the rate of obesity. Now, for the general population, it is fairly accurate.
The scale might be lying to you because if you are training in a way that is creating leaner tissue in your body, then you may not “lose weight”. This is because the same size piece of lean tissue weighs more than the same size fatty tissue. So you could be getting leaner and fitter and losing fat but gaining muscle and thus weight.
How do you know if you are making progress? Aside from bodyfat measurements (which may or may not be accurate depending on the tool used, time of day, your hydration level), how do you feel? Are you clothes fitting the way you like? Are you feeling like you are fitter and healthier? You know your body.
- You are not too old to get fit and strong – Nope. You are not. There are many, many instances of people starting an exercise program in their 80’s and 90’s and make progress and gain muscle. You just need to train properly and recover properly. Set your mind to it and make the commitment to your health.
Ernestine Shepherd proves that age is just a number. At 56 she was a sedentary school secretary and made the decision to change her life. She is now a 79 year young personal trainer. She made a tremendous transformation to get fitter and healthier.
I’ve talked about Charles Eugster who started bodybuilding at 87. He continues to sprint in the Master’s level competition internationally and holds records at 97. His workout is quite intense after being sedentary til he was 63 (Update: Charles passed away at the age of 98 in 2018 shortly after doing a book tour in the UK).
- Play outdoors combined with exercise is best – People who play outdoors, whether it is regularly doing yard work, walking, hiking, running, golfing, skiing, snowshoeing, anything outside regularly burn more energy than those that only exercise inside. Do combined indoor exercise and outdoor activity, especially combined with a healthy diet, and you have the perfect recipe to work towards optimal health. Breathe fresh air and you will sleep better too!
- The best time to exercise is – When do you want to exercise (as long as it is some time!)? The best time is when it fits your schedule. We are all busy with work and family commitments. Put your workout in your calendar. Join an exercise class – that is a great way to make the commitment on your calendar.
- The best form of exercise is – It depends on your goals but overall the methods are similar. Just possibly with different levels of intensity. If you are training for a specific sport or activity, you might train one way. If you are looking for general fitness, you might train slightly differently.
No matter what type of workout, there are 2 keys to remember:
- you need to be training for strength, cardiovascular health, and flexibility, and
- you need to be able to push, pull, squat, hinge at the hips, carry a load, rotate, counter-rotate, and walk/run. All in different directions and at different levels of intensity.
- A calorie is a calorie – No. There are good calories and bad calories. The good calories are processed more efficiently by your body. The bad calories are not. Good calories are used for energy and optimal health. Bad calories might be used for energy in short order or stored in your body and contribute to declining health.
Putting bad calories in your body will most certainly have a bad effect down the road. “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) aids fat loss – When you exercise at a high intensity, you are burning different fuel which does not require oxygen for about 20 – 30 seconds. During the rest (10 – 20 seconds) you are getting oxygen back in you to help with fat loss. However, after you are done exercising, your body taps into the fat storage to help recover and rebuild itself. This is called afterburn.
HIIT is also more “functional”. Think about it, when in your every day life do you get your heart rate up to 80% of your max for 20 minutes? Answer: when you are training for running. In reality, you walk up stairs, your heart speeds up, when you reach the top, your heart rate levels out. That is what it does in HIIT training.
- You are who you hang out with – It is said that you are the average of the five people that you hang out with most frequently. This is not to say that you should get new friends unless they are bringing you down and you feel negative energy from them! But hang out with people who inspire you to high levels of fitness. You will feel the energy!
- More muscle equals more burn – Lean muscle tissue is “alive”. When you exercise, muscle uses energy to work. Then when you are done working out, it burns energy to rebuild and recover. Strength training along with a proper diet builds muscle.
- Better fitness = better “whoopie” – Yes, it’s true. I had to get this one in here because it is true. Exercise makes you fitter and healthier. When you are fitter and healthier, you feel better about yourself. When you feel better about yourself, your relationships improve in a good and fun way – especially if your partner is exercising too!
- Exercise puts you in a good mood – Intense exercise, the kind that makes you really breathe hard, especially if you are having fun and outside in fresh air, has a way of lifting your spirits. The oxygen getting into your brain feels refreshing! Try going outside for a brisk walk. Walk fast for 20 seconds, then moderately for 20 seconds. Do this repeatedly in cool crisp day and you will feel energized!
- Have something in your stomach before you exercise – The only “pukers” I’ve ever had were either high school athletes that ate too much before a practice, or people who ate nothing before an intense workout. You need something in your stomach when you workout. You need it for energy and you need it to keep your stomach settled. If you workout early in the morning after waking up, your stomach is empty and might just have stomach acid in it. Disrupt that with a lot of bouncing around or high intensity and you will not feel good during your workout!
- Cross-training minimizes risk of injury – If you spend too much time on one type of exercise (i.e. running) you are likely to experience an overuse injury or injury when you try to do something outside of that realm (i.e. play basketball). People who cross-train (i.e. do strength training, HIIT, mobility work, speed work, etc) are less likely to be injured when they try new activities of reasonable intensity.
- Dance like no one is watching – it’s great exercise – Try something fun like dancing! Dancing is great exercise whether you are doing Irish step dancing, square dancing, ballroom dancing, or just dancing in your living room for an hour by yourself to your favorite music or with your significant other. Try it sometime it is fun and quite a workout!
- Movement distracts you from mental stress – Exercising intensely distracts you similar to putting yourself in a fight or flight situation. Have you ever felt stressed and climbed a particularly steep mountain or done a particularly hard workout? What happens? You forget about the stress and focus on the task at hand. Sometimes it is for survival! This is a beneficial way to manage chronic stress.
These are just a few fitness tidbits for you to chew on. If you ever have a question about health and fitness or nutrition, please feel free to contact me.