The Best Form of Exercise? Dr. Scott Monk April 9, 2014
Running, walking, biking, swimming, hiking, Orange Theory, P-90X, Pilates, Insanity or something else? The simple answer to the question, "What form of exercise is best?" is this: the one that you will do. Consistency is first. "Healthy," is not a one-time accomplishment, it is a lifestyle. Far too often the mindset is to attempt to accomplish an exercise goal. The goal then becomes an end rather than exercise itself. Far too often this mindset leads to over training, training through injury, and/or severe calorie restriction in order to accomplish a goal. The gains achieved are often soon lost in a few short months post-goal.
In a recent article titled, "Too Much Running Tied to Shorter Lifespan,"[i] researchers discovered that those who "get either no exercise or high mileage runners both tend to have shorter lifespans than moderate runners." Even with cardiac risk factors removed, high mileage runners with no evidence of heart trouble via their blood results, still died younger than those who did far less exercise. Why? The researchers in the study were without explanation. However, as I have been touting for years, prolonged stress of any kind destroys function and may turn deadly. Too much exercise generates all of the same stress chemicals and responses as those produced with any extreme emotional stress. "All things in moderation," holds true regarding those who over train.
Exercise BenefitsAs long as the exercise is not a stress in itself by being too strenuous for too long, balanced anaerobic and aerobic exercise will decrease total body inflammation, reduce depression, promote an optimistic outlook, increase detoxification and lymphatic flow, strengthen bones, promote proper genetic expression and slow down the aging process. In short, exercise helps everything from brain to bones to blood sugar.[ii][iii][iv][v]
Here are a few pointers to make sure that your exercise is helping, not hurting:
Minimal pain - Do not train to the point where pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and ice are required after a workout. If this is happening, then you are managing an underlying injury. Injuries, by definition are associated with inflammation and structural change/degeneration. Unless you are being overpaid to use your body for your occupation, don't compromise a lifetime of function for a one time achievement.
Do not over train - Over training leads to an adrenaline-driven, muscle-wasting, fat-storing metabolism. It fuels the fire of hypoglycemia and leads to all sorts of unwanted hormonal and blood sugar imbalances.
Eat protein - Exercise is about proper utilization and enhancement of muscle function and proper energy production through fat burning. Without adequate protein intake, both of these are compromised.
Do not exercise when hungry - For the same reasons just mentioned, exercising when hungry almost guarantees protein burning (catabolism) rather muscle building. Have a small amount of protein and a complex carbohydrate before your workouts.
Expect Plateaus The body has a high capacity to adapt to the stresses placed on it. If you are attempting to reach certain goals you may need to add variety to your routine. A variety of exercises will cause the body to attempt to adapt to something else. For example, running uses the same muscle groups in the same way. A long distance runner who feels little soreness after training, may feel a deep quadriceps burn after cycling, or playing basketball. The same muscles, used differently will cause greater overall function and metabolic performance. Cross training - intentionally doing different activities in order to use the same muscles in different ways - breaks through exercise plateaus, and increases overall fitness.
In order to move exercise from a goal mindset to a lifestyle mindset consider doing the following:
Have fun - Making exercise a natural part of a fun activity.
Set achievement goals - Set a goal to train longer, farther, more often, climb a different mountain, or take a new path. Put in on the calendar and tell your friends what you're up to (guilt is a good motivator).
Involve others - Participation with others keeps you from forgetting and foregoing your exercise. Extra eyes looking on, push us to try harder and creates accountability partners.