A recently published study is shaking up the fitness world. The study by Dr. Peter
Schnohr of the Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen found that people who
exercise by jogging strenuously have the same mortality (death) risk as sedentary
people! In contrast, light joggers (aerobic/cardio vigorous, but with adequate rest
periods and moderate intensity) were likely to live the longest.(1) But really, why is this so surprising?!* Think of it in the simplest of terms:
The car that is never used, rusts, rots and becomes non-functional
The car that is drag raced and driven to the max breaks down
But the car that is lovingly warmed up, regularly driven & maintained works fabulously and lasts!
So if we can understand we need to take care of cars this way, why don't we
understand the same basic principles are at work in our bodies? Here's the
science we already knew before this ground breaking study.
Aerobic & Muscle Under Conditioning - the Rusting Car
Let me add here, that most Americans aren't at risk of over training - muscularly or aerobically - and, in fact, are at far greater risk for all types of diseases and death due to lack of activity - hence we have an obesity epidemic that even includes the kids. We also have known for a long time that people who participate in regular physical activity have significantly less risk for most diseases.
We also know losses in aerobic and body efficiency can occur as soon as after 48 hours without aerobic activity. After about 96 hours without muscle work, changes associated with muscle loss can begin.
Aerobic & Muscle Over Conditioning - the Overused Car:
The highest intensity workouts are not always the best. Research suggests a program for the best cardiovascular fitness improvement is set up as:
80% of your workout time is spent below your lactate threshold (the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream),
10% is spent at that threshold, and
10% is spent above that threshold.
Studies have shown most recreational athletes do as little as 45% and seldom more than 70% of their training in the lower intensity range. The tendency to push the pace can create chronic fatigue that prevents full adaptation to the work being done, and interferes with optimal performance. (1)
We also know muscles that are fatigued require a recovery period. Muscle builds after you work out, as your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers and forms new muscle protein strands. This happens after your work out while you rest. Continually over training actually breaks down muscle.
Athletes who work out too frequently and hard can actually steal their energy and muscular gains that rely on the recovery process: rests between exercises/resistance training sets; rest immediately after your workout, and especially rest 48-to-72 hours after exercise.
The Sweet Spot - The Well Maintained Car
Like everything else, it's about BALANCE. All this is a lot of information, but thankfully in our Wade into Fitness classes these principals are incorporated for optimum long-term fitness. We don’t focus on competition, processes that burn us out or looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our classes are offered every other day during the week which naturally creates a recovery period along with regulation. Exercises are rotated so we don't overwork and break down a single muscle. Our dance fitness/cardio conditioning is 30-40 minutes per class generally in the 80/10/10 recommended pattern mentioned above. In class, we often talk about "smarter is not always harder," moderation, and listening to our own body. We discuss that advanced yoga practice is not about achieving the most difficult and strenuous poses (Asanas).
Dr Schnohr's work suggests that if your goal is to improve your quality of life and improving life expectancy - finding the right balance is key and exercising regularly each weekat a moderate pace (vigorous by not overdoing it), with recovery periods is a good strategy. According to Dr. Schnohr, "anything more is not just unnecessary, it may be harmful."
To me, this means participating in regular, well balanced, and paced activity. This includes strengthening and cardiovascular exercise with "off or recovery days" on which we are still active - vice overdoing it for hours at high intensity and not allowing for adequate recovery periods.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology Feb. 2015. Dr. Peter Schnohr, of the Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, & colleagues. Schnohr studied 5,048 people over a 12-year preiod. Those that jogged 1-2.4 hours, no more than 3 days a week had lowest death risk. The highest mortality rates were found in fast-paced runners & those who were sedentary. Dr. Schnohr notes light jogging in this study represents vigorous exercise, while strenuous jogging represents very vigorous exercise. "When performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system," he adds.
The New Heart Rate Training by Matt Fitzgerald/AFAA