8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
lots of surprises,
This review is from: The First 20 Minutes: The Surprising Science of How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter and Live Longer (Paperback)
Bet you didn't know most of this (I didn't): running is good for your knees; only 20 minutes' exercise a WEEK is enough to improve your mental health - and this first 20" drops mortality rates by 20 per cent whereas tripling that only reduces mortality by another 4 per cent. Light exercise (eg walking) for 150 minutes (2½ hours) a week split into almost any chunks improves health, fitness and endurance; working out for more than 90 minutes daily is often less healthy than no exercise at all and regularly exercising to exhaustion is likely to kill you.
Exercise (at least moderate exercise) does not rev up your metabolism - you do NOT burn more calories afterwards. Exercise by itself is pretty useless for weight loss but apparently essential for weight maintenance and, on a diet, helpful for weight loss. One group put on a lousy, fattening diet did not gain weight - but only if they exercised first thing in the morning, before eating anything at all. In a 13-year study, the women who diligently did moderate exercise almost every day (brisk walking, swimming, biking or dance classes) for an hour or so gained hardly any weight at all over that time (but this isn't easy to keep up). All of one group who lost over 20 pounds regained weight but those who stuck with an exercise program for the entire year regained barely half as much. People with the fat-gene (FTO) have an enormously increased risk of becoming obese over their lifetimes but those who were physically active for at least an hour a day on most days of the week had a significantly lower body mass index. If you are fitter, you live longer even if you are fat.
Aerobic exercise (cardio or endurance, provided there is HIT) may be the single most important determinant of how long (and well) you live, trumping even smoking and obesity. The speed with which someone can run a mile in his or her 40s and 50s almost eerily predicts heart disease risk 30 or 40 years later. In men an 8-minute miler had a 30 per cent lower risk of developing and dying from heart disease than men who couldn't manage a mile in 10 minutes. In women it was 9 minutes compared to 12 minutes per mile. However, flexibility in the hips and shoulders reduces by about 6 per cent with every additional decade after 50, even for those who exercise regularly. For the elderly, the least active lost memory and clear thinking five years sooner than the most active (the most active ones in this study merely walked a little). Exercise for one hour 4 times weekly not only makes the elderly fitter but improves both memory and mood. Also there is overall general stress reduction - specifically, it has been found to make you less anxious, less angry and happier! Best of all, you can return to physical activity, with considerable benefits, even if you have been inactive for decades.
While aerobic exercise is known to spark improvements in brain structure and function, there is now some indication that weight training does too. Further, strength/power/weight training benefits endurance athletes, even if it is an easy resistance training regimen. For non-athletes, a weight training regimen - without any additional endurance exercise - can replicate most of the health benefits (including heart, blood sugar and weight control) associated with running, biking, swimming and walking. For the elderly, weight training also benefits joint flexibility and is (not surprisingly) a counter-measure for the inexorable skeletal muscle aging. Core training (the core is the corset of muscles and connective tissue that encircles and holds the spine in place) does NOT improve athleticism (!). In particular, go easy on crunches, which can damage spinal discs.
As a strength-training alternative, yoga and pilates are mildly good for muscular remodeling. The squat is the most potent exercise, encapsulating everything you could wish for from strength training as a whole. Just fold your arms across your chest, bend your knees, and lower your trunk until your thighs are about parallel with the floor. Do that 25 times. You don't need to do anything else (and probably won't be able to anyway). Add a weighted barbell once the body-weight squats grow easy. It's simple, allows for progression, builds power and you can do it anywhere!
Walking three minutes at an extremely brisk pace (the "overload" bit, ie increased intensity or interval training - which seems to make the brain slightly recalibrate how much you can handle), followed by three minutes of slow striding - repeated 5 or 6 times - makes you significantly fitter than doing only one or the other. 15 minutes of maximum exercise weekly (3 minutes on and 3 off repeated 5 times) is equally effective (but, since the publicity about this, there have been increasing reports of people damaging themselves from trying too hard). Carb-loading not only doesn't help but causes weight gain, unless you regularly ride a bike for three hours or more. The effects of supplements on health or athletic performance are equivocal, counterproductive or simply imaginary. Avoid sugar/fructose in all its forms. While drinking too much liquid has caused a number of deaths at marathons, no deaths have been linked to dehydration at marathons. There is no credible evidence for the advice to drink eight glasses of water daily. Cramping is not caused by dehydration or loss of sodium and potassium. Instead, 2.5 ounces of either de-ionized water or pickle juice (yes, strained from a jar of ordinary Vlasic dills) creates rapid cramp relief (within 90 seconds).
Stretching, warm-ups and warm-downs (cool downs) as well as ibuprofen all either don't work or are damaging; ice baths are of questionable utility. Athletes and performers do best with just one day's rest at a time (but it has to be complete rest or only include something light like yoga) - two days off significantly increases injuries; Massage doesn't help tired muscles to recover but chocolate milk does (for athletes only). There is no correlation between "proper" running shoes and injury-avoidance, although less shoe turns out to be best in all sports. The newly fashionable barefoot running must be done more lightly (land with less force) if it is not to cause injury. The biggest single predictor of injury (in any type of performance) is previous injury - ie, injuries tend to cluster; the only answer appears to take care not to get hurt in the first place. There's a fascinating chapter on injuries as they relate to over-confidence (and self-deception) versus under-confidence as well as attempting an entirely new discipline - even a study on the benefits of lucky underwear.
Last but not least: differences in exercise behavior are about 60 per cent attributable to genes: the drive to exercise or avoid exertion is inherited to some extent. Other genes control how well people respond to fatigue, how rewarding/easy exercise feels, how well the body regulates energy, how resistant you are to injuries - even how optimistic you are! Related to that, pregnant women who exercise regularly create healthy changes in their unborn children. Interestingly, while most top athletes carry some of the athletic genes, none carry all of them - and some carry none of them. Among the rest of us, some benefit only from strength training, others only from aerobic exercise, some from both and a few do not respond to either - and some actually become LESS fit or strong than before starting to exercise! Several pairs of genome sequences have been identified, so far, that account for these differences in response among people.
OK, one last gem: men who spend more than 23 hours a week sitting (whether driving, at desks, or watching TV - even if otherwise they lead active lifestyles and exercise regularly) have a 65 per cent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sit for less than 11 hours a week (another book says the health risk doubles for women).
This bare summary cannot cover everything in the book. To multiply the benefits of your future efforts, buy it, read it, use it.
Later note: guess what! According to "Which" magazine, a panel of experts reviewed the clinical literature and found that exercise can be as effective as taking medication. The physical activity could be housework, gardening, and walking and cycling more briskly. Based on this, they revealed that:
based on a 65-year-old man and a 65-year-old-woman:
chance of dying that year - 2.4% (man 65)
chance of dying that year - 1.5% (woman 65)
150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise
reduces risk to - 2.1% (man 65)
reduces risk to - 1.3% (woman 65)
300 minutes of moderate-intense exercise
reduces risk to - 1.8% (man 65)
reduces risk to - 1.1% (woman 65)
So, this means that if I were a 65 year old woman, I'd have to do 5 HOURS of exercise every week just to reduce my risk of dying by .4%????
If a 65-year-old man, 5 HOURS reduces my risk by .6%????
I've got better things to do with my time (these reviews being one). YOU get to decide if it's worth it to you...
but it seems more and more to me that physical activity is only worth doing if enjoyable....