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Exercise, Mindfulness, Cognitive, and Lifestyle: Part 1 of 3
In this three-part series, I will discuss certain changes in dosing as well as components to health and performance that otherwise were not considered nearly as crucial just a short time ago. In the first< I want to set a tone, however I will not spend a great deal of time discussing actual implementation of today’s guidelines, as they are quite well established…………..mostly.
When I was in an undergrad exercise physiology course, I remember a class where we discussed a new statement from one of our largest organizations in the industry regarding intensity stimulus level for aerobic activity. Keep in mind, this was a bit before (and likely lead up to) there was a daily physical activity promotion, compared to exercise. The statement was that as low as 37% of HRMax was a threshold for individuals to obtain cardiovascular benefit from exercise. This was a far cry from the “target zone” we had been learning about and was therefore a little confusing……………..I don’t know if that is the best term; it was also almost disappointing to some of us in a way, others seems pleased, “we don’t have to have people work this hard.” I recall asking, “ is this because the individuals that benefit from that level of intensity are so deconditioned?” Maybe that is NOT a good finding.
Is it possible that some standards are created or changed to accommodate changes to populations? Yes, as some of this has to do with statistics relative to the subject pool, intervention and measured outcome. I am preaching to the choir here when I ask, “do you think training at 37% of your max (anything) will improve your outcomes?” Of course I’m referring to the appropriate match up of stimulus and desired outcome. Due to the lack of accumulated physical activity, there is now component of this in recommendations. As professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure this information is not received after being skewed by a layperson’s interpretation, even some professionals for that matter. For example, there was an article in the NY Times some years ago discussing a recent published article that stated being obese did not have the same risk as once thought……………….in the study they specifically evaluated active/exercising individuals who measured “obese” or at least “overweight” on the BMI. As a generality, obesity is more “associated” with being sedentary but that is not a rule, likewise being “thin” does not indicate “active” or “healthy.” The message from the article was that overweight is not as bad as once thought. Actually, it meant that you can be overweight and still meet other areas of fitness and potentially health, but may not negate the obesity component.
Being sedentary is associated with so many diseases and disorders, it really is considered a disorder itself. Even if a classified seentary person does not have other identifiable diseases or disorders, they are not "healthy." Exercise is above and beyond accumulated physical activity……….people are actually surprised to learn that being sedentary can override the benefits of exercising three days per week. I had a colleague in the past (in my health department nonetheless), at one of my positions in higher education criticize me for “somehow managing to bring in ‘exercise’ into most all of my lectures.” Well, being an enthusiast, professor of exercise and sport science and medicine, and something called academic freedom, consider me guilty. To me, the interplay/interaction of exercise to most everything else is crucial, and beyond just accumulating physical activity minutes, exercise can deliver an extensive amount of interplay, when performed correctly. This same person who criticized me for my promotion of exercise argued that gardening was just as good. First off, exercise does not necessarily mean being in a gym and lifting weights (although, I do like that!). There are several activities that can meet the criteria, even gardening, if you can somehow overload appropriately. But for this person, it was the only method and in description did not meet the criteria including the lack of opportunity during the various seasons in the northeast. Ironically, this person was also out sick for about an entire during most every semester. No, I'm not implying causal relationship here.................well, actually I am.
I want to take some time discussing this interplay of exercise with some more recent concepts/areas to include mindfulness and cognitive training. We all know the components of fitness and lifestyle, but how have things changed with technology, sports, occupations, education, etc? If exercise 3 times per week wont offset being sedentary, how have other aspects changed?