All too often, you get into work, sit down in front of a computer screen and don’t seem to move until well past going-home time. You’ve been busy resolving problems or trying to get everything ready for the next upgrade. The phone has been ringing all day. Emails that only you can deal with have been pouring in. And you’ve now moved to virtual meetings to save time.
And that’s not just one day, that’s pretty much every day. You find yourself moving around less. You seem to be living on a diet on doughnuts and coffee. What can you really do to get fit and back to something like your old figure, and still have time to do your job properly?
Well, there are a couple of quick wins to getting healthy. Stop smoking. Statistics indicate that smoking shortens your life by eight years. And eat your five a day. Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day extends your life by four years, mainly by reducing the risk of heart disease. Those years will give you more time to sit in front of your green screens!
Exercise for Your Brain
Most people think that joining a gym is the answer—actually going is better. A 2006 study
shows that aerobic training is better for your brain than just toning and stretching exercises. And, worryingly, a study of people between 1971 and 2009
found that the least fit people were almost twice as likely to develop dementia than the fitter people.
Fitness is more important than fatness. A study in Dallas over eight years found that fit people lived longer than unfit people, irrespective of their weight. Perhaps not surprisingly, a 2013 University of Illinois found that exercise plus diet produced the biggest weight loss over six months.
But exercise alone isn’t the complete answer. Excessive exercise can damage your joints – and this is true for every sport. Research indicates that jogging can add about four years to your life. But don’t jog for too long and don’t do it every day. In fact, it’s best to jog for about 20 minutes every other day. Doing more running doesn’t seem to result in an equivalent amount of more benefit.
VO2 max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen that a person’s body can use while doing intense exercise. It’s an indirect measure of how good your heart and lungs are at getting oxygen into and through your body. VO2 max increases in response to exercise. And, it seems, people with good aerobic fitness are less likely to get heart disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia.
Various Fitness Routines
So, how much exercise should you do? A University of Pittsburgh study in 2008
found women in their two-year study needed to do a whopping 70 minutes of exercise five days a week to keep their weight down. Eating a banana gives you 90 calories, which you can burn off by running 1.1 miles or walking for 50 minutes. A large chocolate muffin (480 calories) would require a 6-mile run or walking for three hours and 20 minutes. A pound of fat has 3500 calories in it, which means to lose that pound of fat would require you to run for an hour a day for six days.
Alternatives to running are available; what about weight lifting? Apparently, a gentle stroll burns more calories than lifting weights. And even the thought of doing exercise can encourage some people to eat more in readiness. A 2012 study found that people lose less weight than they expect because they underestimate how much exercise is needed to shift fat, they compensate by eating more and exercise has less effect on your metabolic rate than was thought.
It seems that running for an hour a day for five days a week (without any additional eating) produces a weight loss of about 3 pounds in the first month. After six months, the monthly weight loss will be down to half (1.5 pounds). After 12 months, it will produce a weight loss of 0.4 pounds.
So, what can you do that works and that doesn’t take up hours of your day? The answer, according to the book “Fast Exercise: The Simple Secret of High Intensity Training,”
seems to be High Intensity Training (HIT). It takes three bouts of 20 seconds, three times a week to lose weight, particularly around the stomach, and helps avoid Type 2 diabetes. An Australian study
found HIT was better for weight loss than continuous exercise. Athletes have been using it for many years to reduce the amount of training they need to do to get the same effect. Basically you run, cycle, or whatever as fast as you can for 20 seconds, let your heart rate recover, and do it again, and once your heart rate has gone down, you do it a third time. And that’s it. You don’t break a sweat, but you do yourself a lot of good. And do that just three times a week.
You’ll find your cells make more mitochondria, you’ll get fitter, you’ll lose weight (including visceral fat) and you’ll eat less. It will also improve your insulin sensitivity. It’s an all around win-win situation.
Be warned though, there’s a huge variation in how people respond to an exercise regime. And this seems to be explained by 11 genes out the whole human genome. The more “positive” ones you have, the fitter you will be. The fewer “positive” ones you have, the harder you’ll find it to increase muscle strength and VO2, for example.
Getting up Is Important
But for everyone, a couple of minutes exercise a week can see an improvement in health and a reduction in body fat. It seems well worth making the time in your calendar to do something like this—even running in the same spot—to stay healthy. And at least it makes a change from staring at a green screen all day.
Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, an IT consultancy. A popular speaker and blogger, he currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups. He’s editorial director for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and for many years edited Xephon’s Update publications.