For most people, the response is a big NO. In developed countries, we eat too much, sit too much, and center our life around sedentary activities. Framed this way, excessive exercise does not exist. Most of us benefit from more walking, more running, more biking, and more weight-lifting, any time of the day.
What happens if we don’t listen to our body and try to push our limits? Let’s go through recent studies to see the consequences.
First, intense exercise is usually defined by prolonged exercise at more than 85% of our maximum heart rate. For example, a 35 year old male would typically have a maximum of 185 beats per minute (bpm). 30mn of running, boxing or biking at more than 157bpm is a session of intense exercise. A common formula to get your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age. This is also equivalent to zone 4.5 to zone 5 on a watch with a heart rate monitor. This can give you a rough estimation if you usually do moderate or intense exercise.
Past the definition of intense exercise, results differ greatly, depending on what you are looking at.
In a previous post, resting heart rate was shown to reflect physical and mental condition. A low resting heart rate correlates with good health compared to a high resting heart rate.
It becomes complex when you consider age. Older people have lower resting heart rate. And individuals with the same age, nutrition and overall fitness level can have vastly different heart rates. For instance, my maximum heart rate when running is around 172bpm while a friend has 200bpm, with the same heart rate sensor. It does not mean however that I am more or less fit than others.
It can build strong physical and mental health as well as a good social network. And it’s just the start!
I have trained many years in traditional kung fu (white crane), filipino, thai, brazilian (BJJ, capoeira) and japanese martial arts. I heard: “Traditional martial arts don’t work”. “MMA is better than traditional martial arts”. Many find quick arguments on why traditional martial arts training doesn’t make any sense.
The most sensible argument is that we have transitioned from constant warfare to societies of relative peace. The most lethal situation is perhaps a knife or gun mugging – but those are exceptional. The vast majority of us simply do not fear caught in a battle when getting out.
The argument is true. Since traditional martial arts train warriors, traditional martial training is in a way aimless. But so does long-distance running, MMA, football or soccer. No-one runs or plays football to train skills that are required for daily lives.
Commuting with a bike is a fun and healthy life choice
Going to the gym or a sports facility costs time and money. Many commit to the investment, others don’t have the time or the discipline. For the latter, it is only weeks, months or years later they realize the poor health choice.
An alternative is to include a fitness activity in your daily routine. This can be cooking, cleaning up, gardening or playing daily outside with kids. It can be also walking or cycling to work.
Walking with a combination of public transport is accessible and involves little preparation to the daily routine. It is a nice way to be a bit more active.
Cycling to work can bring even more benefits. It improves your cardiovascular system, decreases risk of Type 2 diabetes, increases insulin sensitivity, helps manage body weight, helps fight depression and mood changes and reduces all-cause mortality. A Danish study showed that the 45,000 adults aged 50-65 years who regularly cycled to work or for leisure had between 11-18 percent fewer heart attacks over the course of a 20-year follow-up. The analysis indicated that some protection against heart disease was achieved with as little as 30 minutes of biking per week.
Cycling is also a low-impact activity, good for those who have knee or shin splints problems.
An activity tracker like the Garmin Fenix 3 allows you to know your resting heart rate
High resting heart rate is correlated with higher mortality risk. This means the faster your heart beats at rest, the most likely you will have high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular hospitalization, poor blood circulation, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and overall higher all-cause mortality.
I have been using a Garmin Fenix 3. The watch, amongst other features, shows your daily resting heart rate (RHR) as well as its weekly history. I observe that stress, intense exercise, cold, sickness increase resting heart rate. In this case, I do yoga, meditation, active recovery, and make sleep a priority.
Smooth, familiar and repetitive sounds produce drowsiness and sleep. Conversely, the lack of these tend to produce alertness and wakefulness.
Research shows sounds which effect a individual are dependent upon his environment. A city dweller may sleep with the steady rumble of traffic but he might find the sound of crickets to be too noisy. Someone who lives in the countryside might respond better to sounds of leaves stirred by gentle wind.
Do not skip rest in sustained work or training . Your performance and stamina will increase.
It’s not an accident that most philosophes and religions incorporate rest.
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work
God is not lazy and has more to do. It’s the same for most workers, mums, or serious athletes. We always have more emails to read. There are always interesting side-projects. Or another personal record to reach out to. It makes sense that working hard another day will get you there faster. Social pressure will encourage those who give it all. They are the heroes of modern times. Yet, is it beneficial?
It is easy to rely on medical advice, various experts or studies. Remember however to listen to what your body tells you.
When faced with a health or body issue, the Internet, friends or various experts will tell you many and different diagnoses. It is important to listen what they have to say and inquire about possible solutions.
Yet, it is your job is to listen to your body on a continuous basis, not the doctor’s. Like Plato and the allegory of the cave, doctors and other experts can only see symptoms through proxies. Indeed, you tell about your symptoms in a certain way, tests are delayed and partial, and no-one didn’t live your life to know about your unique health history and identity.
After a period of hard stress, either sickness or overreaching training, prefer active recovery to complete rest
Past burnout, fatigue, a sickness, or an athletic training, it’s tempting to stay in bed, watch TV, read a book or play a video game. That’s what most people think when doctors or mums recommend “rest”.
But it is better to follow an active recovery plan. You can improve blood circulation and increase oxygen brought to muscles and organs. You can decrease stress and get back in touch with friends. These shorten the number of days necessary to reach again your peak. Continue reading “Prefer Active Recovery to Rest”