High Intensity Harms!


     Today it seems that everywhere in the world of health and fitness you hear of the next uber-intense workout.   You know the ones I am talking about.  Is this what we should aspire to?  Maybe, depends.  But does intense boot camp, obstacle course style exercise serve you and your body in the long term?  I have some reservations.

     The physical stress of these types of exercises troubles me.  I am in health and fitness for the long haul.  I am in it for my heart and my lungs and my butt, my hips, my knees, my spine and all my parts.  I am beyond (happily) just the image in the mirror, or what size jeans I wear and also how many sit ups I can do.  If you use the number of reps you do as an incentive to make it fun, then go for it.  But if you use it to make yourself feel weak and punished then what's the point?  In the long term you will burn out of that kind of negative feedback.  Some people love high intensity exercise and that is great for them if their body can take it.  But many people start to feel that if exercise is not hardcore then it is not real exercise.  And that is a shame.    I exercise for who I want to be now and for who I will be later in life. 

     I believe the oxidative stress we undergo during exercise can be a good thing - it stimulates growth and repair.  But too much and you tip over into degrading your body rather than repairing it.  I know many health coaches who have worked out so hard and so long that they have exhausted their adrenals and injured their health.  No culture in the world, that I know of with long lived people, encourages this type of intense exercise after 40.  Why not?  

     The type of exercise I recommend to my clients is first and foremost exercise you will do consistently.  And if Crossfit is the only exercise you love then do it with great form, training and care.   But as we age, we need to have exercise that will carry us through.  How many old runners do you see?  Second, I recommend exercise that gets your heart rate slightly elevated.  A good example is brisk walking.  Third, exercise should use lots of muscles, like gardening.  And fourth, every so often after you are warmed up, you should ask your body to do something of intensity either with weight or speed.    Note ,I am not talking about lifting a hundred pounds.   I mean running up a small hill, picking up a heavy grocery bag repeatedly or lifting hand weights - small, short bits of novelty a few times a week.

     You don't have to run a marathon or be super intense to benefit from exercise.  I think we lose sight of this.  Plain old fashioned walking is the best exercise for humans.  We were made for it.   But you do have to do it.  As I age, and I am 41 now, I have learned to respect my body and its long-term requirements.  I am not a professional athlete nor a personal trainer but  I have been exercising for 15 years and I know my body pretty well.  I work from that.  And so should you.  For me, longevity is the name of the game and so is quality of life.  So while I may be the slow uncool tortoise in the race, I know I will win in my own way with a smile on my face and with a lot fewer injuries.