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Little Bit by Little Bit (7/31/13)

July 31, 2013


How do people get healthy?  One little bit by little bit at a time.

So it seems to work with exercise.

Gretchen Reynolds did a nice short review in the July 9th, New York Times on studies of short versus “long” exercise.

One group studied – young men from Beijing.  Monitors looked at changes in blood flow – a crude, but useful correlate of arterial stiffness.  Monitors on, the men  were asked to walk for 30 minutes.

But in two differents ways – one “long”  30 minute session, and then two 15 minute sessions –  with the two shorter sessions separated by a 20 minute rest period.

Arterial pliability improved with both walks.  But it was sustained only with the two short walks.  Only with the two rest separated sessions did arterial pliability remain improved 40 minutes.

Other studies demonstrate equal improvements with blood pressure  with three 10 minute walks equal to one 30 minute walks.  Yet the combined shorter walks seemed to blunt blood pressure peaks more effectively. Plus athletic endurance improved equally with three ten minute versus one thirty minute walk on a treadmill.

So what’s best – multiple or single exercise regimes?

Marathon Or No Marathon?

People are often encouraged to run long distances.  The Badwater Ultramarathon has folks running 135 miles through Death Valley – in summertime. Temperatures often exceed 120 degrees.

Marathon running does give people great senses of satisfaction, extraordinary experiences, and the social pleasures of running in groups.

Yet the first marathon runner – Theuysippus – died after completing his 26 mile, 385 yard route.

Long is not always best – particularly as there is a subset of the population, perhaps as much as 10 percent, who do not receive many benefits from exercise – and are occasionally harmed by long bouts.

And long is not always practical.  Many people can walk in ten or twenty minute “sessions” – as in strolling with a friend to and from lunch.  Getting 30-60 minutes to “exercise” in a gym at lunch time may be physically and mentally enriching, but it’s not always possible on many jobs.

Rest and Exercise

Rest is far more than restorative, but regenerative in its own right. So welcome to interval training.

Most professional athletes do not go “full out” throughout  every work out session. They do different tasks.  They do them at different times.

And they rest in-between.

Why?  Rest is required for restoration. Viewing the body as a continuously regenerating information system makes this more understandable.

If you walk for 15 minutes – then rest for 20, as the group did in Beijing, you give the body a chance to adjust the changes brought on by exercise.

There’s a chance for ligaments and muscles to carry  in more nutrients and remake themselves – just as must  do in sleep.

Ask people who lift heavy weights.  Do they go from one weight to another uninterrupted?

Certainly not.  They rest.  Which gives their bodies a chance to restore and rebuild.

How long should they move and  how long rest in-between?  That will differ from task to task, person to person, even hour by hour.

But it pays to listen to your body.  And many a part time exerciser will tell you that cross-training – different exercises at different intervals with rest periods in-between – avoids injuries and makes them stronger and fitter.

What also seems to help overall health are short periods of going “flat out” in high levels of exercise.  They may be 30 seconds, two minutes or even longer, but going at “full steam” appears to increase insulin sensitivity, and may also have more prolonged effects on controlling blood pressure.

Going “full out” for 2 hours is a very different story.

Ask Emergency Rooms in snowy areas what happens when people start shoveling after heavy storms.  Cardiac disease events rapidly rise. Listening to your body may make more sense.

By By Bit

Many folks think they need gyms to exercise.


Stairs are natural steppers.  Parks are natural work out centers – as are sidewalks.  Free weights can be placed in your place of work.

It’s unclear what the “best” amounts of time are for “full” health and endurance.  The lack of clarity will probably remain because:

People have different biological clocks.

People often have very different rest cycles – including sleep and social rest.

Folks have inherently great variations in tolerance for different physical activities. So results will remain individual.

Yet a few simple points can be made:

1. Physical activity is better than no physical activity.  People who do an hour or more a day of some physical activity maximize lifespan, improve mood and appearance, and increase productivity.

2. Little bits of 10 minutes  at a time seem to work –  especially when it comes to issues like weight control.

3. Things add up.  Every step, every movement of muscle may count towards aiding health.

4. Short, intense exercise intervals may prove especially useful in avoiding diabetes.

5. Simple, brief bouts of physical activity after meals appear to control glucose peaks and diabetic risk.

Neither Rome – nor Washington – was built in a day.  You can get far – and move towards your goals – one little bit at a time.Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration,healthy without health insurance, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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