Listen To Your Body – It’s Telling You To Rest

My little experiment that reaped great rewards

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Copyright Dennis Mitton

Tired-1
Your body will tell you when it’s time. Will you listen?

Maybe you’ve noticed something now that you’re forty or sixty or eighty: your body takes a little longer to do what it used to do easily and effortlessly. Use this information wisely. Be nice to yourself. Take care of small scratches and cuts as they can take longer to heal. Be patient with others as they are moving a little slower too.

This is essential advice if you actively exercise. Back in the good ol’ days that we all talk about, I could step on the scale on Friday morning, frown, run ten miles on Saturday and another five on Sunday, and smile at the scale on Monday morning. Not now. Losing weight takes a concentrated Herculean effort now that I’m pushing sixty. And that many miles will tire me out for a week.

runI learned to give my body time to rest last summer in sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid, South Carolina. It’s glorious in April but by the end of May I will wake up to 85 degrees and the temperature will top at around 100. Running on paved roads adds another five degrees. I tried waiting until we had a brief shower but that drives the humidity up to where one can hardly catch a breath. Natives complain less than I do but for this coffee-infused Son of Seattle it’s a tough slog.

So I quit running. I took August off and enjoyed the air conditioning and concentrated on stretching and yoga. I ran a three-mile loop one night a week when the temperature mercifully dropped to below 85 degrees. September here is as hot as August so I started back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was truly shocked when I turned in my best times for both a 5k and 10k run. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire race. At first, I thought it was my new Lycra tights. They admittedly look pretty sweet but I don’t think they contributed to my times. I wondered if it was the cooler temps and I’m sure that helped. What I’m most convinced of is that the time off helped. Stretching and resting gave my legs time to repair from long runs in the late spring and it took a few weeks of rest to begin feeling the benefits.

victoria_s
We act like this is the goal…
yoga
When, really, this is the goal. Whole, healthy and hale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every fitness book and trainer talks about rest. It’s when our bodies repair and recharge but few of us really believe it. We’re athletes! We push through pain! We force our body to submit to our iron will! Well, maybe not. So I’ve incorporated indolence and sloth into my weekly regimen and I feel so much better for it. When my legs feel like lead on Tuesday, I listen to them and take off until Saturday. I stretch. I get a couple hours of extra sleep. I loll about and read.  Maybe even spend some quality time with the family! And I feel better for it.

So go work out. Work hard. Breathe hard. Pump your muscles. Feel your body work. And when you’ve worked enough – you’ll know when that is – take a rest. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a week. Or for six weeks like I did. It’s not the end of the world and will almost certainly make your world a little better. And isn’t that exactly what living the good life is all about?

Similar posts:

Take Care of Small Things
Running in the Heat

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Exercise – it all adds up

Adding up the ‘little virtues’ for health

To receive news regarding new posts, please sign-up for email alerts.  I promise that I won’t bug you and you can leave at any time. You can also follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. And please feel free to comment or email. Cheers!


Copyright Dennis Mitton

Mower
Getting in a workout

It’s April now, and it’s likely that your New Year’s resolution to become the Most Fantastically Healthy and Best-Looking person on the planet has been dashed by a thousand pieces of chocolate, by croissants dripping with butter, and by voluminous glasses of ‘healthy’ red wine. If you are especially resolute, you made it through January on track with your workout routine. If you are one-in-ten-thousand, you actually signed up for a French class rather than just looking through the catalog. Oh well. It’s called being a human being and it’s not such a bad thing. We change in tiny increments that all add up to who we are today. It’s the very same way that we become who we want to be tomorrow.

exercise
An hour down – only two to go!

There is a pervasive idea – a lazy excuse? – that if you don’t get outside and run for at least half an hour then you are wasting your time. Or that you need to visit the squat rack five days a week to crush your thighs into submission. Whatever you do, the myth is that you must do lots and lots of it to see results. Exercise science, though, tells a different story. We now understand that adding up ‘little virtues’ through the day totals up to a real and healthy exercise experience.

What does this mean? It means that there is real value in parking your car in the next lot over and walking an extra two minutes to your office. It means that there is real value in taking the stairs. It means that you should turn off your instant messenger at work and actually walk over to talk to someone. Who knows? You might find the added benefit of having a nice relationship with another human being? And maybe having a healthy laugh? It means that there is value in work. Mow the lawn. Take the dog for a walk. Good gawd – go have sex rather than watch other people do it. There’s a crazy idea! Find ways to let your body do work rather than machines.

wood_stack
Grandpa’s idea of going to the gym

Aside from the earlier onset of disease, our Great Grandads and their moms were typically in much better physical condition than we are yet they didn’t exercise. How? Their lives were filled with physical activities that added up through the day. Do you want a good night’s sleep? Go bail hay for a day. Imagine your great grandmother dragging her carpets outside to hang them on the line to beat the dirt and dust out of them. And then dragging them back. Most folks today would need a glass of wine and an hour watching home remodeling on television after this kind of workout.

Let’s be clear that carrying your groceries to the car won’t build biceps that will get you on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. For that, you will have to live at the gym and inject steroids. But as a general boost to your health, adding up daily chores and using your body as a tool can reap real rewards.

 

From the blog:

Exercise to Overcome the Onslaught of Luxury
10 Tips for Starting an Exercise Program
Reasons to Run a 5K – Even if You Can’t Run

Exercse to overcome the onslaught of luxury

Humans used to stay fit just by living. Luxury demands extra work.

Copyright Dennis Mitton

Previously published but always good to remember…


Ventured out to run at 6:30 this morning and was sweating by the time I walked the hundred years to the road. Weatherbug called me a sissy and said that is was only 78 degrees out but the humidity made the air feel like jello. A mile out and my shirt carried a pound of sweat. Combine that with a strain to my left femoral bicep and it was a challenging morning. I walked a little between miles and felt pretty good by the time I was done. I’ve been doing yoga to stretch my hamstrings and that’s helping.

luxury1
You can ignore the Crossfit gym after spending your summer like this.

I thought about exercise while I watched the television show Mountain Men last night. My favorite is an old fella named Tom who lives in Northern Montana. It’s been a cold winter in Montana, and Tom’s meat stock was low. To use as much of a deer as possible, he hunts with homemade bows and arrows. A rifle, he explains, destroys much of the meat while an arrow, if shot correctly, kills as quickly and makes the entire animal usable. How refreshing compared to people who hunt elk or antelope from a mile away. On the day of the hunt, he drives into the woods, loads up his pack, and walks into the woods looking for deer. There is fresh snow so he is able to follow tracks. He finally comes upon a group of does and tracks them for a mile until he spots a buck. Just like humans, he says: when there are fertile females around a stag won’t be far behind. He approaches the buck, takes his shot, and then tracks the animal until he finds it dead. He ends the day back at his house butchering the deer in the dark as the temperature drops to less than zero.

Evolutionary psychologists refer to the EEA: environment of evolutionary adaptedness. There is controversy about the environment that humans evolved within but it certainly includes much of the lifestyle that Tom enjoys. His day begins with splitting wood for warmth and for cooking. He walked miles in the snow and cold hunting a two hundred pound deer which he then drug out of the woods. Not bad for a seventy plus year-old man. His waking time, just like our ancestors, is spent burning calories – it’s easy to see why the body wants to hold on to fat.

Luxury2I exercise because I don’t do any of this. I spend my working days in an ergonomically adjusted chair at a desk with no sharp edges. I force myself to get up to talk to people rather than use instant messaging all day. I buy fattened cow at the grocery store where they give away free cookies just for gracing the front door. We prefer clean and healthy food but our schedules often make it easiest to cook up something from a box that is laden with fat, salt, and sugar. Nothing in my history has prepared my body for this onslaught of luxury.

So try to mix in a little physical hardship in your day. Do something that makes you sweat. Push the mower. It’s how you were made to work and your body will respond with a thank you and achy muscles.

Cheers!

Can exercise kill you? Maybe. Probably not. High-intensity and your heart.

Copyright, Dennis Mitton
sweat1
Those muscles look good – will you die to get them?

Can your exercise routine kill you? Maybe. But lots of things done poorly can kill you. Water can kill you: 6 litres will kill half the people who drink that much (called the Lethal-Dose 50 or LD50). Like coffee? 120 cups will probably put you under. But what about exercise? Isn’t that supposed to be good for you? It is good for you. At least most kinds of exercise. There is evidence, though, that high-intensity exercise – growing in popularity – can have negative health effects over time if done to extremes. Before the bad, though, let’s focus on the good.

What is high-intensity exercise?

exercise
Keep going – it all adds up.

High-intensity exercise is typically defined as exercise that brings your heart rate up to or close to 85-90% of your maximum rate. There are as many ways to figure your maximum heart rate as there are websites but the old standard is to subtract your age from 220 and multiply that number by 0.85 to get beats per minute. View that as a good starting point that will change as you exercise more and train your heart and your body. My resting rate hovers at about 50 and I maintain a heart beat of about 148 beats per minute for a 5k running race. During work outs I sometimes push to over 170 for brief periods. Done properly and infrequently these workouts exercise your heart, which is made of muscle, expand and scrub your blood vessel walls as blood surges to feed your muscles, and increases your lung’s ability to process oxygen and carbon dioxide.  All good things.

So what’s the downside? The downside comes when people think that if one day is good then two must be better and a whole week will turn me into Superman by next Friday. Once a week or so is good. And depending on your age and fitness level maybe several times a week is fine. But at some point, prolonged and constant high-intensity exercise can have negative benefits. What are they?

High-intensity workouts can exacerbate existing conditions

We’ve all heard stories of the person who started running and dropped dead of a heart robot1attack. I knew a family of brothers who lost their youngest brother from an aneurysm while running. Doctors guessed that the problem was pre-existing and triggered by exertion and that he was dead before he hit the ground. But other, more benign, problems can crop up. Knee and foot problems are common. Muscle soreness can linger and make even walking painful. Pulled muscles and torn ligaments can occur. If you start a regimen that includes high-intensity workouts expect to find any chinks in your armor. This is just the nature of machinery. Slow and easy is usually painless but add some stress and you start finding the weak spots.

High-intensity workouts can contribute to poor rest

You would think that you sleep like a log after these workouts but the opposite is often true. You body seems either too amped up or too sore to rest. Yoga and meditation can help as can hot baths. An aspirin helps me relax. And poor rest can contribute to a compromised immune system as well.  And make you damned crabby. Who wants that?
This is age and condition dependent but I’ve had to learn to leave lots of room for healing. I need just about a full two weeks of easy stuff to recover from a really hard work out.

What is the real killer?

Prolonged high-intensity training becomes a problem when your heart begins to deform. Remember that your heart is just a mid-line pump that pushes blood around your body. During times of intense exercise when your cells and muscles scream for every bit of energy they can get your heart does two things: it starts pumping faster and starts to pump more volume. It’s the volume that can hurt you. At those levels of exercise the heart expands more to gather up more blood to push. When it expands, the heart muscle, especially on the right side which tends to be smaller, can become thin and stretched just like a balloon will when you blow it up too much. And just like that balloon it can become weakened and limp when you maintain that pressure. It’s known, too,  that very high heart rates can skew your heart’s electrical circuit and develop into arrhythmias or heart rhythm disorders.

What to do?

Don’t be scared – be smart. For most people doing intense workouts once a week or a couple times a month is fine and adds to your health. You heart will thank you, you lungs will thank you, and your cholesterol will thank you. More than that is fine for short periods. I’ve done a couple cycles of Power90 workouts but tone them down a bit and make sure I get plenty of rest if I feel tired.

run
Want to fit into that bathing suit? Focus on eating and not exercise.

Remember what you are exercising for. Most people running on the side of the road aren’t Olympic athletes. They run for fun and fitness, and maybe to fit into a new bathing suit. There just isn’t a need to work at such an intense level. For most people slow and steady is the best road to improved health. And if you are looking at a new bathing suit remember that eating is much more important than exercise for weight loss.

If you want to try high-intensity workouts start slow and let your body adjust. Ramp it up if you feel good. Slow down if you feel tired. Remember that the whole purpose of exercise is to live better and feel better today. And I recommend stopping after ten cups of coffee.


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Fitness 50 – Throwback Thursday – Working out and still not losing weight?

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

It’s the middle of January – are you losing the weight that you planned to lose? Well I haven’t read any French yet either.

And…kind of along these lines, here is a podcast by Chalene Johnson of fitness fame called One Step Goal Mastery. It’s pretty good – check it out.


 

scaleWe’ve had a solid six weeks since revving up with our New Year’s resolutions to be better, stronger, smarter, and weigh less. For many of us, the tides of change have been something more akin to a leaking faucet. Why? There are lots of reasons. One is that you’ve been doing what you do for a long time. Every single time you repeat the activity or behavior or thought you entrain that habit deeper into your psyche. It takes time to undo a lifetime of training. Even bad training. Be patient with yourself and if you trip up then start over from where your tripped.

Another reason change is hard is that you’ve set your life to certain patterns. You want to start cooking your meals but all you’ve every done is microwaved box dinners. You’ll need to stock your panty with real food, make sure you have the right utensils, and plan on the time it takes to cook. If your life includes running from one activity to the next it will be hard to slow down to cook. Maybe start with the weekends and cook enough for a couple of nights? Or start with just a couple recipes that you really enjoy. Learn to cook those well and keep supplies on hand.  Tidy up the rest of your pantry with healthy snacks and fruits.

One other change is difficult is because we simply take too much on and it’s impossible or unreasonable to maintain. This has been a complaint of specialty diets since diets were invented. Sure bacon and eggs sounds great for breakfast. By the third day of eating only meat you’re getting a little weary of it. Two weeks out and you hope to never see another piece of bacon as long as you live. There is wisdom in doing something good for you that you can sustain rather than doing something perfect that is impossible to maintain.

Keep a steady pace with your eye on the goal. Don’t try too much at once. Go for small wins and build to larger ones. Remember – in health and fitness – all those small gains add up.


exerciseEvery stat I have ever seen about New Year’s resolutions shows that our resolve wanes and then plateaus around the end of January and by June we are all fat and laughing and asking Huh?  Why is it so darned hard to do what we know is best for us? I didn’t make any health resolutions except to keep doing what I’ve been doing – trying to eat a more healthy diet based on Micheal Pollan’s mantra to “Eat food, less of it, mostly plants” and to keep moving. By moving I mean exercise – I love to run – but I also mean doing yoga, stretching when I watch TV, and playing with the kids. All of these activities add up to increased health. And if you haven’t heard then please read up on new research showing that lack of activity is  twice as deadly as obesity. Just walking for twenty minutes daily can save your life – how’s that for easy? Here is a good write up in the Telegraph. For more intrepid souls here is the paper in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is being offered as a free pdf.

I try to make health easy. I plan my runs around the family’s schedule and if I don’t get to run I can do stretches with the kids. They get a kick out of it and ol’ dad feels better. Hopefully we will see better weather soon and can start playing tennis and going on hikes. All good stuff that builds the body and relationships. We try to minimize sweets around the house.  I never think of them unless I know they’re in the pantry. Then it’s as if they scream at me each time a pass.

So if you’ve dropped your resolutions pick them up again. What’s special about New Years? It’s just an arbitrary day we’ve picked off the calendar. If losing five pounds or learning French or washing the car once a week was your goal then it’s a good goal now.

To ‘re-up’ with your resolutions here is a good post from WebMD on how to develop and stick with goals – here.

Here’s good site called Mind Tools with all kinds of information to help you keep moving in whatever direction you decide.

Other good posts:
Confusing Health Advice
Yoga and Stretching for Health
Nine Keys to Healthy Eating


If you exercise or count calories you know that you need to burn about 3500 calories to lose a pound. So you eat a little less (200 calories a day) and work out for forty minutes atsweatnight (300 calories) and, after a week, have lost a pound. In a month you weigh four pounds less, and in a year you’ve dropped fifty pounds! Except that you don’t. The math never quite works out.

Tucked into the footnotes of Yoni Freedhoff’s sane book The Diet Fix (See my review here.) is a reference to an interesting study. Researchers monitored about two hundred unfit people aged forty to seventy for a year. Half were men and half were women. Some were recommended by MDs and some responded to calls for research subjects. The subjects performed home or gym based moderate to vigorous aerobic work outs for sixty minutes a day, six days a week under the care of fitness trainers. Only six dropped out and all kept detailed records.

How much weight could you lose on such an aggressive regimen? Twenty pounds? Forty? Enough to model for the local surf shop? The average weight loss for women was 3.1 pounds. 3.1! For men? 4.0! Hardy stellar. (Though the weight loss was low it was shown that those who worked more lost more and the study appears to have been conducted superbly.)

So what’s up?

  1. Freedhoff uses this study to argue for the primacy of food and eating in weight loss. Eat right in reasonable portions and you will likely lose as much or more weight than when working out. (Thought he stresses that daily exercise is essential for health in ways other than weight loss.)
  2. Your machine or monitor dramatically overestimates the calories you burn. I have about three different monitors that all give different figures for calories burned. And to my knowledge none of them back out the 100 calories an hour I burn just sleeping. This means that I probably…
  3. Eat the calories back. Wow! I just burned a thousand calories! Surely I can have two brownies right? Well, I only burned four hundred calories and just scarfed six hundred. Not the kind of math that adds up to weight loss.
  4. We don’t eat as healthy as we think. Especially if you eat packaged foods even if they purport to be healthy.
  5. As much as that five hundred calorie burn feels good unless you do it every day you are likely over eating for the week or month. Calories are cumulative and one day of working out and low cal meals won’t make up for three days of snacks.
  6. Though you get tired from exercising you might not be getting enough good sleep. If you’re amped up from exercise you might have a hard time relaxing. If I’m up late I’m probably snacking on something.
  7. You’re chasing a fad. They’re fun and sometimes crazy but never really work in the long run. Stick to eating real food that you cook yourself. The best advice that I know of is to eat real food, less of it, mostly plants.

So what to do? Keep exercising! But exercise with more of an eye on cardiovascular health and muscle  and bone maintenance. If you want to lose weight learn to watch your eating habits, real caloric intake,  and focus on real food.

Read the study here.


To learn more about evolution, hack philosophy, health, and literature please enter your email address at the Follow button at the top right of any page. You can also follow me at Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks!

Running – Vehicles to avoid – Observations in South Carolina

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mtton

running1 A couple of decades ago I lived in Vidalia, Georgia which I still consider, in my most humble experience, to be the end of the world where all good things fall off the edge. I was racing bicycles at the time and out for a training ride. I didn’t see the vehicle but I could hear the whirring of huge tires coming up behind me. Before it whizzed past me at eighty or so I saw a beer bottle fly past my head. An instant later the truck drove by honking and the passenger was flipping me off out the window with both hands. Ha! What’s the big deal about trying to peg a bike rider with a beer bottle while moving at eighty miles an hour? Had that bottle hit me in the head it’s unlikely that I would be writing today and they would have sped off, happy in making the world a better place. I suppose it could have been the Lycra – not a fabric of choice for Southern backwoods good ol’ boys – but I suspect it was just their stupidity and common disregard for any other human being.

So I live in South Carolina now and have taken up running. I haven’t put my finger on it but South Carolina seems a world away from South Georgia though I still periodically fear for my life when running. One problem is that there is simply no side-of-the-road. I can’t really blame anyone for this. There is little municipal or state money and, well, roads are for cars and tractors. Not runners or bicyclists or other foreigners. This puts me smack on the asphalt whenever any vehicle comes up. From this vantage I have made several very unscientific observations based on poor vision through the windshield and on vehicle type:

  • The more banged up the vehicle the more generally polite the drivers are. They slow, move over, wave, and smile. Maybe give me a thumbs-up. I like to think that these are just more humble folks who don’t believe that their vehicle makes them better than me but I can’t say. (If they saw my car they would see me as a kindred spirit).
  • Young women are equally accommodating. Probably not a surprise in the genteel South. They smile, move over, and wave. Maybe they just think I look good in my short shorts?
  • Runing 2SUV driving women? It’s a crapshoot. If the car is empty, meaning that the kids are in school and they are coffeed up, and if they are not looking down, then they happily move over. If not, and I believe that this is generally without any malicious intent, they just ignore you and would hardly notice if they bumped you off.
  • I just move off the road when I see a black Mercedes with tinted windows. I don’t even know who drives these but the road belongs to them and they’re not up for questions.
  • Trucks of any sort call for heightened awareness. Most move over but never slow down.
  • running 3
    Can he even see me? Does he care? Just get off the road and let him pass.

    You can guess what vehicle bothers me the most. All the drivers look like they are stunt doubles on Duck Dynasty. They need a ladder to get into the truck. I would like to think that the steering in the truck is a little loose because I find it hard to believe that they would purposefully swerve toward me just for the fun of it but without a mechanical inspection I can’t be sure. They never slow. Never move. Never give one rat’s ass as far as I can tell.

    I’ve noticed that ‘slowing down’ is a weird thing. Most folks here do the Carolina 35 which is code for going as fast as you can whatever the posted speed limit. The problem with slowing down is that you have to slow down. No South Carolinian of any gender or label slows down. Slowing down in South Carolina implies a compilation of untoward character traits:

    • You cry a lot and wear skinny jeans
    • You have balls the size of freezer-burnt peas
    • You are gay (and yes, there is something wrong with that…)
    • If you even go to church you probably go the that weird Universalist place
    • You will save the life of one whale or seal and let an entire state go to waste
    • You believe in global warming

    No red blooded Southerner would voluntarily put themself in such an awkward social position.

    Only one time have I ever had anyone stop. It was an early morning run and a truck – huge, blue-black, ominous – swerved toward me at four times the speed limit. I jumped into the ditch waving my arms and inventing swear words. He slammed on the brakes and jammed that thing in reverse so hard I thought he busted the transmission. My life flashed before my eyes. I scanned the fields for the best place to try to outrun a bullet or a dog. He came up with windows down practically crying out an apology. The sun – I admitted it was huge and bright – was in his eyes and he truly didn’t see me. I waved him on, not wanting to prolong our little meeting (I hadn’t paused my run timer!) and was thankful for another day to run.

Fitness50 – Throwback Thursday – Working out and still not losing weight? Here’s why.

Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton

Written this last spring around the time when we figure out that our New Year’s resolutions aren’t coming true.

And…kind of along these lines, here is a podcast by Chalene Johnson of fitness fame called One Step Goal Mastery. It’s pretty good – check it out.


scaleWe’ve had a solid six weeks since revving up with our New Year’s resolutions to be better, stronger, smarter, and weigh less. For many of us, the tides of change have been something more akin to a leaking faucet. Why? There are lots of reasons. One is that you’ve been doing what you do for a long time. Every single time you repeat the activity or behavior or thought you entrain that habit deeper into your psyche. It takes time to undo a lifetime of training. Even bad training. Be patient with yourself and if you trip up then start over from where your tripped.

Another reason change is hard is that you’ve set your life to certain patterns. You want to start cooking your meals but all you’ve every done is microwaved box dinners. You’ll need to stock your panty with real food, make sure you have the right utensils, and plan on the time it takes to cook. If your life includes running from one activity to the next it will be hard to slow down to cook. Maybe start with the weekends and cook enough for a couple of nights? Or start with just a couple recipes that you really enjoy. Learn to cook those well and keep supplies on hand.  Tidy up the rest of your pantry with healthy snacks and fruits.

One other change is difficult is because we simply take too much on and it’s impossible or unreasonable to maintain. This has been a complaint of specialty diets since diets were invented. Sure bacon and eggs sounds great for breakfast. By the third day of eating only meat you’re getting a little weary of it. Two weeks out and you hope to never see another piece of bacon as long as you live. There is wisdom in doing something good for you that you can sustain rather than doing something perfect that is impossible to maintain.

Keep a steady pace with your eye on the goal. Don’t try too much at once. Go for small wins and build to larger ones. Remember – in health and fitness – all those small gains add up.


exerciseEvery stat I have ever seen about New Year’s resolutions shows that our resolve wanes and then plateaus around the end of January and by June we are all fat and laughing and asking Huh?  Why is it so darned hard to do what we know is best for us? I didn’t make any health resolutions except to keep doing what I’ve been doing – trying to eat a more healthy diet based on Micheal Pollan’s mantra to “Eat food, less of it, mostly plants” and to keep moving. By moving I mean exercise – I love to run – but I also mean doing yoga, stretching when I watch TV, and playing with the kids. All of these activities add up to increased health. And if you haven’t heard then please read up on new research showing that lack of activity is  twice as deadly as obesity. Just walking for twenty minutes daily can save your life – how’s that for easy? Here is a good write up in the Telegraph. For more intrepid souls here is the paper in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is being offered as a free pdf.

I try to make health easy. I plan my runs around the family’s schedule and if I don’t get to run I can do stretches with the kids. They get a kick out of it and ol’ dad feels better. Hopefully we will see better weather soon and can start playing tennis and going on hikes. All good stuff that builds the body and relationships. We try to minimize sweets around the house.  I never think of them unless I know they’re in the pantry. Then it’s as if they scream at me each time a pass.

So if you’ve dropped your resolutions pick them up again. What’s special about New Years? It’s just an arbitrary day we’ve picked off the calendar. If losing five pounds or learning French or washing the car once a week was your goal then it’s a good goal now.

To ‘re-up’ with your resolutions here is a good post from WebMD on how to develop and stick with goals – here.

Here’s good site called Mind Tools with all kinds of information to help you keep moving in whatever direction you decide.

Other good posts:
Confusing Health Advice
Yoga and Stretching for Health
Nine Keys to Healthy Eating


If you exercise or count calories you know that you need to burn about 3500 calories to lose a pound. So you eat a little less (200 calories a day) and work out for forty minutes at sweatnight (300 calories) and, after a week, have lost a pound. In a month you weigh four pounds less, and in a year you’ve dropped fifty pounds! Except that you don’t. The math never quite works out.

Tucked into the footnotes of Yoni Freedhoff’s sane book The Diet Fix (See my review here.) is a reference to an interesting study. Researchers monitored about two hundred unfit people aged forty to seventy for a year. Half were men and half were women. Some were recommended by MDs and some responded to calls for research subjects. The subjects performed home or gym based moderate to vigorous aerobic work outs for sixty minutes a day, six days a week under the care of fitness trainers. Only six dropped out and all kept detailed records.

How much weight could you lose on such an aggressive regimen? Twenty pounds? Forty? Enough to model for the local surf shop? The average weight loss for women was 3.1 pounds. 3.1! For men? 4.0! Hardy stellar. (Though the weight loss was low it was shown that those who worked more lost more and the study appears to have been conducted superbly.)

So what’s up?

  1. Freedhoff uses this study to argue for the primacy of food and eating in weight loss. Eat right in reasonable portions and you will likely lose as much or more weight than when working out. (Thought he stresses that daily exercise is essential for health in ways other than weight loss.)
  2. Your machine or monitor dramatically overestimates the calories you burn. I have about three different monitors that all give different figures for calories burned. And to my knowledge none of them back out the 100 calories an hour I burn just sleeping. This means that I probably…
  3. Eat the calories back. Wow! I just burned a thousand calories! Surely I can have two brownies right? Well, I only burned four hundred calories and just scarfed six hundred. Not the kind of math that adds up to weight loss.
  4. We don’t eat as healthy as we think. Especially if you eat packaged foods even if they purport to be healthy.
  5. As much as that five hundred calorie burn feels good unless you do it every day you are likely over eating for the week or month. Calories are cumulative and one day of working out and low cal meals won’t make up for three days of snacks.
  6. Though you get tired from exercising you might not be getting enough good sleep. If you’re amped up from exercise you might have a hard time relaxing. If I’m up late I’m probably snacking on something.
  7. You’re chasing a fad. They’re fun and sometimes crazy but never really work in the long run. Stick to eating real food that you cook yourself. The best advice that I know of is to eat real food, less of it, mostly plants.

So what to do? Keep exercising! But exercise with more of an eye on cardiovascular health and muscle  and bone maintenance. If you want to lose weight learn to watch your eating habits, real caloric intake,  and focus on real food.

Read the study here.