I've been harrumphing and chuntering most of this week about a tv programme - The Truth About Exercise . A few of my fellow Tweeters have been tweeting about it too. According to some guy on the BBC we do more exercise than we need to, or rather some of us do. Apparently the truth is we only need to do 3 minutes of high intensity training a week for four weeks to 'deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of hours of conventional exercise'. This requires 3 bursts of 20 seconds flat out on the exercise bike. It seems to work because it uses 80% of muscle tissue compared with the 20-40% used in 'walking or most moderate exercise'. That makes the awesome Eugene Bolt look sloooow. It has made some of us the object of scorn and mockery from the couch dwellers in our lives.
I'm delighted that these 12 minutes a month improve insulin sensitivity (when this doesn't work you become diabetic); and increase aerobic fitness (how good your heart and lungs are at getting oxygen into your body and an excellent predictor of future health). It's great news and useful to know, but it's not the truth about exercise by any stretch of the imagination.
What do you do if you've not got a handy exercise bike, can't afford the gym or are unable or not interested in that kind of activity? I couldn't do that bike thing at the moment due to my poorly calf, and I'm well versed on the old spin bike, so what would I do? The other thing that bugged me was that he focussed on those 30 seconds so much it reduced the impact of other important messages. For example, a good walk can reduce the amount of fat circulating in your blood.
But never mind the 30 seconds, for me the most important truth is that the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of living a happy and healthy life is to move. If you want to lose weight, get an Olympic medal or get killer abs, you've a lot more than that to do of course, but the real issue isn't how much or what exercise you do, it's how long you spend sitting down. You can't get away with an hour in the gym when you sit down all day and all night. The truth is, sitting down too much is what does you in.
Regardless of our prowess on the gym bike, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to move to some extent. Just keeping moving sounds a lot more achievable than 30 seconds going bonkers on that bike; we can all move within our capabilities (as my Mum would say!).
And what about the gazillions of benefits we get from exercise - the sense of achievement and mastery, the growing confidence in what we can do if we challenge ourselves and go for it? What about the sheer joy of being outside in the fresh air, enjoying being on a beautiful planet? What about the people who inspire us, the wonderful friendships and relationships we build - in the real and the virtual worlds? How many of us have run, swam, cycled, walked our way through really hard times; solved problems; regained our strength and courage though exercise and come home rejuvenated? Health is about the whole person not just a couple of biological indicators. 30 seconds on a bike in a suit is does not cut the mustard.
That's the real truth about exercise.
Now I'm pretty sure that programme wasn't aimed at people like me and you who love to move about - well most of the time! And I'm a natural fidget which means I can't sit still for long anyway. Plus, I don't really talk about exercise, I run, I walk, I go to the gym, I do spin, I don't really do exercise. But I love to move. But I think what annoys me most of all and why I feel cheated and angry is that an opportunity was lost to focus us all on one of the most significant problems of a culture and lifestyles where too many folk sit down for far too much of their time and it's not good for us. I take it personally. Parkinson's robbed my Dad of much of his movement and his choice to move of his own free will. He'd always been active and tended to fall asleep if stationery for more than a few minutes. I don't take any of it for granted. 30 seconds - pah!
I feel better for that rant - sorry about that! It felt good though to remind myself that I run, walk, cycle, swim, dance, stretch and all the rest of it because I am lucky and because it's part of being alive. One day I may have to sit down and not have the choice, until then, I'm going to keep moving!
Hope you have all had a good week, I managed a 40 minute beach run and a 50 min road run, a yoga session, a sports massage and a 4 mile walk/trot when I got lost in Giffnock (what a nice place!) and was late for my meeting.
Take good care and keep moving!