So it turns out, just as the dietary guidelines are being challenged, so is the way we’re told to properly exercise. Being about to run 5 miles, hold a hard pace on the elliptical for a half hour and taking the time to adequately strengthen each muscle group is the ideal picture of physical fitness–right? WRONG.
It turns out that our bodies just aren’t meant to exercise this way–it’s not natural. It puts us in a state on unnecessary stress. Making ourselves workout for a prolonged period of time at an elevated heart rate (about 80% max HR) puts the body in a state of stress and causes an increase in the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). Elevated cortisol levels sets us up for decreased immunity/increased infections, chronic fatigue, increased fat storage, impairment of hormone/endocrine function, impaired digestion and mental/psychological processes. This is also known as adrenal fatigue syndrome–as your adrenal glands are what pump all the cortisol out into your system.
Furthermore, making our bodies work for this extended period just depletes all the glucose readily available in our blood stream as well as the glycogen stores in the liver (the primary fuel source for aerobic energy). What is the result? Increased hunger! We think we’re doing great burning all these calories but the fact of the matter is, after the workout, you will need to take in a decent amount of calories to replace the glycogen/glucose stores and feel energized + satiated. It really defeats the purpose–all the time you put into working out just to replace the majority of it anyway.
So how should one adjust their physical fitness routine to avoid the above? While I don’t think there is any one “right” way to workout, I think the approach I’m about to describe makes a lot of sense for many people. It helps to think back on what our bodies did thousands of years ago, when we were free from modern day inventions, beliefs about workouts and body image ideals. What did the hunter-gatherers do? Anthropologists have proven countless times that their body composition resembled that of a fit, modern-day athlete. Research suggests that they did a LOT of moving/walking at a slow pace, performed occasional high intensity sprints to get out of danger, and periodically lifted heavy things when necessary. When did the idea happen that it’s fine to sit on our butts all day and then push through an hour on the elliptical/bike at a moderate-hard pace. That’s not using our bodies in the way that best supports their function and ability.
Adapting a routine that more closely mirrors the way our bodies are “supposed” to move offers a great reduction in unnecessary stress, hormone balance, efficient fat burning/muscle building and greatly reduced breakdown (hunter-gatherers showed little to no evidence of arthritis). Moreover, moving at a slow pace frequently, the occasional sprint/high intensity circuit and brief heavy lifting provides a workout that readily utilizes fat stores and a constant rate rather than tapping out glucose/glycogen stores which leaves you ravenous.
Given all this–what have I been doing?
1. Lifting twice a week for about 30-40 minutes using basic exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups at once (dumbbell squats, dumbbell chest press, assisted pull-ups, lunges, planks, rows) for 8-12 reps
2. Walking as much as I can outside for 30-60minutes about 3 days a week at a steady pace. When it’s bad weather–I enjoy the TV on the treadmill (speed probably 3.5-4.0)or a book while on the stationary bike
3. 10 minutes of sprints once a week or a fast 15 minute cardio-burst workout (jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.)
I see results already–and I feel good! No longer do I have to dread pushing myself through a long and hard workout. I basically just think about my energy levels and either do nothing, do some easy cardio or go all out if i’m up to it. It’s convenient for a busy schedule as well–I don’t have to devote all this time to strength training or excessive cardio. I can easily slip in a quick workout on my way home from classes or walk to campus to get in a walk for the day. This way of working out really makes sense to me and I feel like I’m respecting my body rather than abusing it. I feel energized and strong.
Mark explains the whole exercise thing here–check it out!
It’s been a good weekend here at school! The birthday celebrations continued with my family coming up for some good food and conversation–what’s more to want?
G-free, low sugar cupcakes–thanks ma 🙂
And of course there was the Valentines Day festivities–Justin had a delish, Paleo/low-carb meal waiting for me when I came home from a loooooong clinical day
And yes–that salad was amazing. Avacado, turkey, BACON, tons of veggies, olive oil & balsamic. Nom.