The Truth about Exercise

According to new research highlighted by British journalist Michael Mosley on the PBS/BBC program “The Truth about Exercise.

  1. You can easily hurt yourself if you’re not prepared
  2. People’s response to exercise varies greatly (not a clear linear positive relationship between exercise and health)
  3. If you expect to lose weight by exercise alone you will need to exercise for hours at a time. (unless you change your diet)
  4. Although 3 hours / week of exercise are recommended, you can gain potentially as much benefits for only 3 minutes/ week

Hogwash? Tell that to the Journal of Applied Physiology, who is publishing studies demonstrating the results.

Promise of personalized guidance.

Doctors’ guidelines are recommended based upon averages, while we know that there is a huge degree of variability in the way we respond to exercise. Thus there is no guarantee that you will benefit from such programs.  Research suggests that variability in genes plays a role in how you respond to fitness programs.

Conclusions from the HERITAGE Family Study, which followed 1,000 international patients to explore correlations between genetics, response to exercise and risk factors, show that on average people gained health benefits from 4 hours of moderate exercise per week for 20 weeks.  However ~20% “Non-responders” exhibited little to no changes in health, whereas ~15% super responders gained significantly more benefits.

Thus if you can predict (potentially based on DNA sequencing) how likely you are to respond you can expect a much better outcome from your personal exercise program.

2 Factors for Health:

Essentially, our lifestyles affect these 2 critical factors which predict how healthy we are.

  1. insulin sensitivity – how effective at managing blood sugar
  2. aerobic fitness (VO2 Max) – powerful predictor of future health

Jamie Timmons, professor of ageing biology at Birmingham University, has shown that these health markers can be improved though a HIT (High Intensity Training) protocol.

So what is HIT? – 3 bursts of high intensity training of 20 seconds. 3 times a week.

Apparently it works because going flat out breaks down the glycogen stores, sending a key signal from muscle asking for more energy.  The more energy that is stored in the muscles or as subcutaneous fat, the less likely fat is to accumulate around the internal organs (liver and pancreas) which is the major risk for disease.

In fact simply walking produces an enzyme that substantially reduces the amount of fat dissolved in your bloodstream. Lipo-protein lipase helps to deposit fat into the muscles where it can be used, rather than ending up in fat stores around the heart, liver and pancreas.  10,000 steps is the daily recommended level.  I’ve been walking a lot recently, but to help me measure my progress I just orded a fitbit zip to aid my pursuit toward quantified self, use of RunKeeper, and half-marathon training.

Curious to learn more? Watch the full video of: The Truth About Exercise with Michael Mosley on PBS. Or see more from Michael Mosley.


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