Tag Archives: fitness

Another Reason for Regular Exercise…

…before you break your hip. From MedPageToday:

After a hip fracture or other serious fall-related injury, how much independence older adults regained depended to a large extent on how well they were doing beforehand, a study showed.

Functional trajectories were tightly linked, with rapid recovery observed only in those with no or mild disability before the fall,Thomas M. Gill, MD, of Yale University, and colleagues found.

Read the rest.

Need a fitness program? Consider this one.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Fat or Fit: Which Is Healthier?

Men live longer if they improve or maintain their fitness level over time, according to research out of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Part of that improved longevity stems from reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.

Compared with men who lose fitness with aging, those who maintained their fitness had a 30% lower risk of death; those who improved their fitness had a 40% lower risk of death. Fitness was judged by performance on a maximal treadmill exercise stress test.

Body mass index over time didn’t have any effect on all-cause mortality but was linked to higher risk of cardiovascular death. The researchers, however, figured that losses in fitness were the more likely explanation for higher cardiovascular deaths. In other words, as men age, it’s more important to maintain or improve fitness than to lose excess body fat or avoid overweight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Lee, Duck-chul, et al. Long-term effects of changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and bodly mass index on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Circulation, 124 (2011): 2,483-2,490

How Soon Does Fitness Deteriorate After You Stop Working Out?

The answer varies from person to person and may be different for aerobic versus  strength measures.

I’m reminded of a quote from a famous violinist: “If I don’t practice for one day, I can tell.  If I don’t practice for two days, my conductor can tell.  If I don’t practice for three days, the audience can tell.”

I laid off all exercise for the last three weeks, partly due to a long vacation, partly to see how much my fitness would deteriorate.

Here’s what I found:

  • My time for the one-mile run increased from 8 mins and 54 seconds to 9 mins and 30 seconds
  • My maximum number of push-ups increased from 32 to 36
  • My maximum number of sit-ups increased from 32 to 34
  • My maximum number of pull-ups increased from 8 to 9

Closing Thoughts

Strength measures increased, surprisingly.  Was it just a good day, or did my muscles need the time off to rest and re-build?  Over-training is a real problem for some folks.  At 20 minutes of weight-training twice a week, I doubt I was anywhere near what most consider over-training.  I don’t fiddle-fart around during my exercise sessions, but I’m not puking either.

So I won’t feel too bad in the future if I take a couple or three weeks off from strength training periodically.

My endurance for running deteriorated significantly.  Is it related to the lack of strength training, the lack of treadmill interval work, or both?

Your mileage will vary.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

Not Darrin Carlson

Darrin Carlson last March shared his ideas on the minimal amount of exercise and equipment needed to achieve reasonable fitness benefits.

Public health authorities for years have recommended physical activity in the range of 150 minutes a week. That ain’t gonna happen for most folks. Darrin says “Two hours a week will work for most people….”

Jonathan Bailor, Chris Highcock, and others suggest 30-60 minutes a week may be enough. Even Darrin admits as much, for the super-dedicated.

I was recently able to pass U.S. Army physical fitness standards by just working out for 70 minutes a week.

-Steve

My Fitness Experiment #3: Results

One……more……rep!

After finishing six weeks ofChris Highcock’s Hillfit earlier this year, I designed another fitness program using dumbbells and high intensity interval running on a treadmill.

I’ve preached about the benefits of baseline and periodic fitness measurements.  Here are mine, before and after roughly six weeks of my fitness experiment #3:

  • weight: no change (170 lb or 77.3 kg)
  • maximum consecutive push-ups: 34 before, 32 after
  • maximum consecutive pull-ups: no change (8)
  • maximum consecutive sit-ups: 37 before, 35 after
  • time for one-mile walk/run: 8 minutes and 35 seconds before, up to 8 minutes and 54 seconds after (*)
  • vertical jump (highest point above ground I can jump and touch): 279.5 cm before, to 276 cm after
  • toe touch (wearing shoes, stand and lock knees, bend over at waist to touch toes: no change (22 cm)

I worked out twice weekly for a total of 70 minutes.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercise at least twice a week; or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity plus muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week.

Bottom Line

I was a bit fitter after completing Hillfit a couple months ago.

Or I just had a bad day when I tested this time.  Nevertheless, I prefer my current program to Hillfit.  (Click for report on my six-week Hillfit experience.)

What Next?

For strength and endurance gains, perhaps I should incorporate some Hillfit features into my current plan.

I don’t feel like I’m getting much out of Romanian deadlifts.  Drop ’em?  Do they add anything to squats?  Try Hillfit-style wall squats while hold dumbbells?

How does my fitness compare to other 57-year-old men?  I’m not sure.  One of these days I’ll see how I stack up against U.S. Army fitness standards, which involve a timed two-mile run.

Is my current level of fitness good enough?  Again, not sure.

My highest dumbbell weights are 40 lb (18 kg).  I’m already using those for squats, deadlifts, and one-arm rows.  For future strength gains, I’d have to do those exercise for longer, or more days per week, or buy some 50-lb weights.  A pair of 50-lb dumbbells will cost $50 (used) or $100 (new).

I’ll put together yet another fitness program within the next few months.

I don’t like to exercise, but I want the health benefits.  My general goal is to maximize health benefits while minimizing exercise time.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Notes:

Next time I do the mile run on the treadmill, start at 7.5 mph and increase to 8 mph as much as tolerated.

(*) About 10 days after this I ran a mile in 8 minutes and 30 seconds on a high school track.

Starting Hillfit

Today I started Chris Highcock’s Hillfit exercise program.  It’s basically four exercises I can probably finish in 40 minutes a week, split into two sessions.

In addition I’ll be doing twice-weekly interval training on a treadmill:

  1. 3-minute warm-up at 5.3 mph, then
  2. 12 minutes of 1-minute fast runs (7-8 mph) alternating with 1-minute slow jogging (5.3 mph), then
  3. 3-minute cool-down by walking 2.5-3 mph

I’ll dial a 1% grade into the treadmill to simulate wind resistance I’d get if outdoors.

After six or eight weeks I’ll switch to another program, such as Jonathan Bailor’s Smarter Science of Slim, which also promises reasonable fitness with relatively little time and equipment investment.

If you hope to exercise regularly, you’ll need to be motivated.  I’ve recorded my motivations.  What’re yours? 

Steve Parker, M.D.

U.S. Army Fitness Benchmarks

I’ve written previously how it’s helpful to have some baseline physical fitness measurements on yourself.  That post mentioned up to 14 different items you could monitor.  In the comment section, I recognized that’s too much for some folks.  For them, I suggested just doing the five-item functional testing: 1-mile run/walk (timed), maximum number of push-ups and pull-ups, toe touch, and vertical jump.

A week ago, I was at a training session for adult Boy Scout leaders.  One of the items covered was environmental heat illness: how to avoid, recognize, and treat.  One of the risk factors for heat illness is “poor fitness,” defined as taking over 16 minutes to run two miles.  Inquiring minds want to know where that number came from.  No reference was given.

About.com has an article on fitness requirements for U.S. army soldiers, who are tested at least twice yearly.  There are only three components tested:

  • Number of push-ups
  • Number of sit-ups
  • Time to complete a two-mile run

Fortunately, the Army doesn’t expect a 57-year-old man to perform as well as a 17-year-old.  For instance, a 17-year-old has to run two miles in 19 minutes and 24 seconds or less; the 57-year-old is allowed up to 23 minutes and 24 seconds.  Females and males have different performance standards: a 17-year-old woman has 22 minutes and 24 seconds to run two miles.

The simplicity of the Army’s approach appeals to me.  Check out the APFT tables in the About.com article if you want to see how you compare to Army soldiers.

Steve Parker, M.D.