Friday, September 24, 2010

How to get big gains from no-pain exercise

Jane Fonda and sports medicine expert Dr. Gabe Mirkin agree: no pain, no gain, when it comes to exercise. But Harvard medical professor Harvey Simon claims that “moderate, painless exercise is extraordinarily beneficial.” So who’s right?
     “Go for the burn,” social-activist actresses cum exercise advocate Jane Fonda once urged us. “No pain, no gain.”
     Dr. Gabe Mirkin, a leading expert in sports medicine and fitness agrees. “You can prevent muscle soreness by stopping exercising when your muscles start to feel sore, but then you will not improve,” says the author of The Sportsmedicine Book, the best-selling book on the subject. [Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Pocket Guide to Fitness and Sports.] “Your muscles are strengthened “by taking a hard workout and then having sore muscles on the next day,” then resting or doing easy workouts until the soreness disappears. “Your muscles,” he says, “grow and heal while you recover.” And, he writes, “Pain is necessary for the muscle damage to grow larger and stronger muscles.”
     Could damaged muscles be a bit like broken bones? When the bone heals, where it broke becomes stronger than before the break. So too with a broken pipe that’s been welded.
     In training exercises, athletes and competitive sports players stress their muscles so hard they need anywhere from one to 14 days to recover, Merkin reports. They do not attempt to train for muscle burning “until the soreness has gone away completely… World-class marathon runners run very fast only twice a week. The best weightlifters lift very heavy only once every two weeks. High jumpers jump for height only once a week.”
     We have been told that to get good benefits we need not only pain to strengthen muscles, but at the heart of the matter, we need vigorous aerobic exercise to strengthen our cardiovascular system. We have been told we should exercise at anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of the maximum rate that our heart and lungs can sustain for more than about two minutes—the heart training rate. “For maximum cardiovascular benefits, nothing can take the place of aerobic exercise performed at your heart training rate,” according to researchers at the University of California, Berkley.
The experts were wrong, says Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School. “For achieving and maintaining health, moderate, painless exercise is extraordinarily beneficial.” Simon’s claim for no pain, big gains is argued in his book, The No Sweat Exercise Plan: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, and Live Longer (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007).
     Simon pleads guilty to having once “proclaimed that the only way to benefit from exercise was to exercise aerobically,” i.e., make your heart beat at 70 to 85 percent of its maximum sustainable rate, for 20 to 60 minutes of continuous exercise, three to seven times a week. “I wrote that golf was the perfect way to ruin a four-mile walk—but I was wrong.” He adds:
     “Without contradicting the value of aerobics, new data show that it is possible to attain nearly all of the health benefits of exercise without attaining high levels of aerobic fitness… intensity is less important than the net amount of exercise, and intermittent exercise is as effective as continuous exercise. In fact, golf is very beneficial indeed, as long as players walk the course two to three times a week.”
     Simon cites the results of 22 studies involving 320,000 people from around the world on the observed cardiovascular benefits of moderate, painless exercise. In one study, the observed death rate of more than 10,000 Harvard alumni who walked at least nine miles a week was lowered by 22 percent. More than 39,000 American female health professionals who walked at least one hour a week had a 51 percent lower risk for coronary artery disease.
     And the benefits go well beyond a healthy heart, Simon says. “Many observational studies also suggest that ‘no-sweat’ exercise can help reduce the risk for stroke (by 21 to 34 percent); diabetes (16 to 50 percent); dementia (15 to 50 percent); fractures (40 percent); breast cancer (20 to 30); and colon cancer (30 to 40 percent).”
     Simon coined the term “cardiometaboliic exercise” (CME) to help guide moderate exercisers. Dusting for 30 minutes will earn you 75 CME points; pushing a hand lawnmower for 30 minutes will give you 200 CME points, and 30 minutes of cross-country skiing, 350 points. “For general health and gradual weight loss, aim for 150 points a day,” he writes. To lose weight faster and/or reduce dietary calories more sharply, aim for 300 CME points a day.
So who’s right? Both are. If you aim to compete in a marathon or triathlon, or earn big money as a professional hockey player, strenuous exercise for muscle- and cardiovascular-building advocated by Dr. Mirkin would seem to fit the bill. If your goal is simply a longer and healthy life, Simon’s “no-sweat” exercise might be enough.
     As for me, I like to be between these two polar posts. I enjoy exercising more vigorously than Simon’s minimum. I’m not among the athletes and competitive sport players for whom Mirkin writes, and at my age, couldn’t join that crowd even if I wanted to. But I do enjoy setting myself a few reasonable challenges, and I especially enjoy walking and long hikes.
TAGS: How to get big gains. Jane Fonda. Gabe Mirkin. Harvey Simon. Muscle pain. Muscle strength. Physical training. Heart training rate. The No Sweat Exercise Plan. Walking. Diabetes. Dementia. Breast Cancer. Colon cancer. Cardiovascular disease. Cardiometabolic exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment