I have to comment on a number of discussions and conversations I have had with many individuals and coaches in the past few months. There is a misconceived notion out there about the purpose of exercise and training and is often further confused by the practices of most individuals and health practitioners. Using exercise to create weight loss is a little like using a screwdriver as a hammer, it may work but it is the wrong tool to mange the job effectively.
First of all let’s establish one main point; exercise and training is different from activities. Walking, hiking, playing soccer with your kids or mowing the lawn are all activities. These are not substitutes for training and working out but they are essential to long-term health, not to mention how they can enrich your life. Activities are not likely to have a dramatic impact on your performance and immediate optimal health profile although they can play a significant part in your long-term health if you remain active all your life.
As humans we have been doing routine activities through work and play for as long as we have been on earth. It is what we are intended to do, not sit at a computer all day and on the couch in front of the TV all night.
That being said, we have also been “working out” for as long as we have been on earth. In the past working out was defined as any “Flight or Fight” event that required us to dig deep inside us physically and mentally to insure our survival. This could be a chase to catch prey that we needed to feed our family, escaping from being chased as prey, physical hand to hand combat for our life or for assets, as well as any extremely physical routine that taxed our central nervous system acutely affecting the chemistry of our bodies. So think sprinting rather than walking or jogging. Wrestling with a tiger or other human invader. Climbing a high tree to find fruits or vegetables or cutting down trees and dragging large logs to build a shelter.
As you know, in modern society we don’t have weekly “Fight or Flight” events anymore. This is what your workout or training should mimic. It should be very difficult but only performed 2-4 times a week for a short brief duration.
The rest of your waking hours should be concentrated on activities or movements that are less taxing to the central nervous system and or could be considered “active recovery”. Also, every day or every training session should not be a “Fight or Flight” experience. Mix it up. Pilates, Yoga and technique training are excellent ways to get in your exercise and stay healthy and fit. During your down time, you should not be sitting all day but you should be getting adequate rest and recovery between your “Fight or Flight” events. The older you get the more recovery you will likely require. Too much “Fight or Flight” training can lead to over-training problems
Now let’s examine the purpose of regular training. Working out is a poor way to control your weight but an excellent way to manage your human chemistry (hormones and neurotransmitters which affect weight, mood, energy…), reduce health risk markers and last but most importantly to increase the quality of life you will have until your last day on earth.
When you are working out regularly you should be feeling better, you should be leaner, more toned, stronger and better able to tackle the day to day duties of life. If you are not working out regularly you should not be gaining weight but maintaining weight levels. If you are gaining weight it is because of a combination of too few activities coupled with poor eating habits.
Training is not a good form of weight control as you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Weight management should be controlled through good diet. Nutrition is the key to normal weight maintenance. Exercise only helps make you leaner and more toned. I often hear “I exercise to eat how I want” but this is using exercise for the wrong purpose.
That being said, you should exercise and if you do you need to do it correctly with high intensity only a few times a week and a slightly slower pace in between. To further this concept recent research continues to support this premise:
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have shown that 30 minutes of daily training provide an equally effective loss of weight and body mass as 60 minutes. Their results have just been published in the American Journal of Physiology.
Exercise increases energy expenditure and will normally create a related increase in energy consumption. If you use it to control weight by trying to create an energy deficit, you are going to get hungry and have to go without food at some point. Likewise, when your training slows down or stops, your energy expenditures decrease but so should your energy consumption. If it doesn’t you gain weight. It isn’t the lack of training but the over-consumption of energy you don’t require that causes the weight gain.
Understanding the human chemistry and the effects exercise habits have on your chemistry are the things we teach you in the Clean-Eating program. Without this knowledge you won’t have the keys required to maintain good health in a simple and uncomplicated way. Instead you will be wondering why you gain weight and do what everyone else does… workout more and try chasing your tail in a never ending cycle that you cannot win.
Start thinking differently about the purpose of exercise and nutrition and use them in the way they were meant to be used to program your health properly and you will be rewarded with optimal weight management and increased vitality!