Thursday, March 22, 2007

exercise - what is too much?

A blog recently stated:

>>What is MIA in health recommendations, intent on getting everyone exercising 60-90 minutes a day, is balance and the other side of the story.<<

Apparently the writer of this blog, a RN, BSN, feels that the recommendation of the committee which wrote the 1996 Surgeon General paper on exercise was excessive (the recommendation in the paper was 30-40 minutes moderate intensity cardio, most days but the committee all agreed that 60 minutes was ideal, stating that they had reduced the 60 minutes most days to 40 minutes most days because it was thought the public would totally reject the idea otherwise).

The blog author went on to quote Dr Edell's opinion (popular in a society which feels that getting up and changing the TV channel without the clicker is excessive exercise):

>>>There is little to support “more is better,” and certainly not for everyone. What may be most surprising is how everyday things we do around the house compare favorably to “real” exercise, he said. Things like gardening, raking leaves, painting the house, washing the car, mobbing the floor, cleaning windows, dancing, playing table tennis, and chopping wood.<<<

To illustrate this point, the blog quoted several newspaper articles accusing aerobic dancing and exercise in general, as being responsible for the increasing number of joint replacement surgeries being done now.

Early as the hour is, I couldn't let this go because I feel that THIS MISINFORMATION could risk the lives of those reading the blog if they followed such BAD ADVICE as to not do regular CARDIO.

First of all, there is a BIG difference between Jane Fonda low impact aerobics (which no, does NOT cause injury!) and the high impact aerobics of the early 1980's. Low impact aerobic dancing is one of the best exercises one can DO (i.e. Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, Denise Austin, Kathy Smith et al) because not only does a person do cardio vascular exercise but also a lot of range of motion and moving most muscles in the body under slight resistance. If one does NOT move all these muscles REGULARLY, one can get sarcopena or muscle wasting, which has been suggested in SEVERAL studies to be the cause of a large part of the disability associated with aging. The news articles quoted in the blog made NO DIFFERENCE whatsoever in types of aerobic dancing (typical - news media is NOT known for accuracy). I with a BMI of 43 at the age of 62, can easily do a Richard Simmons tape with no injury whatsoever (on the contrary, it feels great!)

Secondly, CARDIO VASCULAR exercise which directly exercises the heart has been overwhelmingly suggested in MANY excellent studies to significantly reduce the risk of ALL illness regardless of what people weigh. In such activities like cleaning the house or gardening, we do NOT directly exercise the heart (which is a muscle and needs exercise). We do not necessarily raise the heartrate to an aerobic level and keep it there for 20 minutes or more. We do not induce a higher body temperature which has been suggested in several studies to beef up our immune system. It is VERY WRONG and VERY MISLEADING to suggest that people do not NEED regular (and daily if possible!) cardio. (and the impact of daily cardio on diabetes type II has been well documented in medical literature!)

The 1996 Surgeon General's paper on exercise stated that NOT DOING 30-40 minutes CARDIO MOST DAYS, was MORE RISKY than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Thirdly, the type of exercise which MAY raise the risk for hip and knee replacements is RUNNING. Excessive running such as is done, in marathons has been suggested to RAISE rather than lower the risk of heart attack, cancer etc. But doing 40 minutes daily of low impact cardio like the health rider or the Gazelle Freestyle or even the trikke scooter is a whole different beastie than running a 26 mile marathon. Elite athletics has NEVER been about health.

Although I am not much of a fan of running marathons and calling it "healthy", to say that marathons or even high impact aerobics are the cause of increasing joint replacement surgery seems very incorrect when only 5 percent of the population actually follows the recommendation of the 1996 Surgeon General's paper on exercise and 25 percent of the population exercises (cardio!) as much as three times a week! Likely a STRONG factor in the increasing amount of degenerative joint disorder (and hip and knee replacements) is a lack of regular cardio especially if combined with the CHRONIC DIETING which is so popular in our society.

In the 30 year Cooper Institute studies of 29,000 people, it was found that doing cardio exercise as little as 3 times a week, lowered the risk of heart attack and/or dying early, by 40 percent. It also lowered the risk of cancer by 40 percent, and this was REGARDLESS of what the individuals weighed!

But this benefit is ONLY obtained from CARDIO or aerobic exercise and NOT just "cleaning the house" or "gardening" or taking the stairs or parking further away from the store (much as people would like it to be so!).

It is sad that we often, do NOT hear from our medical providers just HOW important CARDIO exercise IS, on a regular basis! And yet Lawrence Maharam in THE EXERCISE HIGH stated that he did not know ONE cardiologist who did NOT do cardio. Interesting, isn't it?

Source material:
Maharam, Lawrence: THE EXERCISE HIGH
Gaesser, Glenn, PhD: THE SPARK


Anonymous said...

You should have kept reading, because she has quoted the research of the Cooper Institute repeatedly. Trouble is, the recommendations for 60-90 minutes most days of the week and in the form of "cardio" is not what the science has shown to be necessary or beneficial for long -term metabolic health.

SueW said...

Sue answers:

Thank you for your comment! (nice to know someone actually reads these blogs!). Since the 1996 surgeon general document on exercise set those suggestions for how much cardio (echo-ed by I think we cannot say, there is NO evidence in science that doing 40 minutes daily of cardio is beneficial. Call me naiive but I rather think the committee of scientists who created that paper WERE basing their recommendations ON scientific literature and observation (especially considering that one of the members of the committee was the lead researcher OF the Cooper Institute Studies, Dr Stephen Blair!) Also one of my biggest concerns with the blog was that it did not distinguish between just doing work and "INTENTIONAL AEROBIC EXERCISE" which directly exercises the heart muscle. That we do not have to do cardio and can just get our "exercise" out of "life" is a misnomer in our American society where technology has removed the work factor out of most tasks. For example, there is a difference between mowing the lawn using a power mower or riding mower and mowing the lawn using a HAND manual mower.