Are your workouts too intense? Pros and cons of intense exercise

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Does excessive exercise exist?

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.

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Exercise alone does not offset sedentary lifestyle

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Many meet the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

However, most modern day jobs such as engineering, marketing, call centre, retail or other office based work involve long periods of sitting — sometimes up to 95% of the day for jobs such as programming.

In those cases, research increasingly show that even if you achieve the recommended amount of weekly exercise, you still cannot reverse the negative effects of 8+ hours per day sitting down.

Add television watching, video games, reading on tablets, sitting while commuting, eating prepackaged foods instead of cooking and the long-term health picture is bleak.

Specifically, with 150mn of weekly moderate exercise, with an otherwise sedentary job and lifestyle, your mortality rate is still increased by +35% (sources). Long periods of sitting increase the risk of heart disease by 50%. Sitting life escalates chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Simply, the human body is not designed to sit 8 hours per day nor is it designed for office work.

When looking at your lifestyle, it is then important to recognize the 2 factors independently. Physical activity is the time you spend exercising, and sedentary lifestyle is how you characterize the majority of your time outside physical activity.

Step one is to optimize physical activity. Are you doing enough physical activity daily? weekly? Are you enjoying it or is it more of a chore? Are activities diverse and enjoyable?

10,000 daily steps or 150mn of weekly moderate exercise is the minimum recommended by institutions. But in most cases, you can do more, and you should. I would recommend a mix of intense exercise complemented by long moderate physical activities, such as commuting by bike or nature walks.

Step two is to decrease risks of sedentary job. Cut periods of prolonged sitting by having a stand-up desk. You can also get a watch with a “move” reminder. Take short walks, or find a place to do a series of lunges or push-ups. If that sounds unnatural and ridiculous, think about the fact that you’re sitting unnaturally for 8+ hours per day.

These small differences can make a big difference. The secret is to move regularly.

Step three is to change your sedentary life. Most of us cannot change our jobs. However, it’s up to us to take the necessary steps to have a healthy lifestyle. What does it mean in practice?

  • Cooking instead of ordering or buying precooked dishes
  • Having hobbies with minimum physical activity such as dancing, photography or gardening instead of passive entertainment such as TV or video games
  • Biking, running or walking for commuting as often as possible instead of driving the car

It is necessary to go through each step. I have never seen so many people with sports watches or gym memberships, and believe they are good with two or three weekly gym sessions. However, it is the loss of physical activity during the many other hours of the day that is having a profoundly negative effect on our health. Don’t just focus on the exercising hours, make sure to move regularly during the day, every day.

Why Your Weight Loss Plan Is Not Working

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There’s the case of the college guy who wants to look chiseled for Spring break. But no hard how he tries, the scale won’t move.

There’s the other case of the busy professional who’s seen a series of specialists, nutritionists, doctors, consulted with fitness trainers. She has wonderful meal plans, and a training plan customized to her needs, but she can’t shed a pound.

The two cases above are real, and the issues are common. Here’s what I’ve found after lengthy discussions.

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Sports & Fitness Tech Outlook for 2017

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For those in the medical and healthcare field, I wrote about trends for 2017.

The article got interest so we will do the same exercise for sports and fitness technology.

Sports & Fitness is a different field from medical. We see a lot of Kickstarter projects with colourful lights claiming medical benefits, without evidence. There are teams with good software but poor hardware (e.g. AndroidWear), and teams with good hardware but poor software (e.g. Garmin).

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Tips For Running In the Cold

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One of my goals was to run outdoors this winter and so far, it’s a success. I run 3 times a week with temperatures between -10C and 5C (-14F to +23F for our American friends). This can go to -15C or lower with the wind factor.

Why Run? If you missed it, read why you should consider running regularly.

It’s not crazy as it sounds! Yes winter in Canada is cold, dark, and dirty. But running outdoors is less depressive than being confined in a living room or exercising in a crammed gym. Here are my top tips to make winter running suck less:

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Winter is a Great Time for Home Exercises

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There’s only snow and freezing rain outside. It’s also dark, cold and windy.

This makes you want to hibernate at home for the winter and only wake up to the gentle spring.

Fortunately, there are lots to do there during the winter! Here’s my selection of ideas for home winter training:

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Goals for 2017

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Happy New Year !

My goal for 2016 was simple : get back into exercise, be lean again, and clean up diet.

I got with a group of friends to start running during the summer, and do routinely 35 km per week (5k, 10k, and 21k). The performance were good.. until it started snowing. Surprisingly, I like running in the snow in the woods. It’s a good time to reset the clock and I feel fresh after the run… although completely frozen.

Weight is under control, leaner than my martial art days. That’s something I’m not going to complain about.

For diet, I stopped eating processed foods and 90% of my foods come from cooking. Of course, there are foods like chocolate, soya products or bread that I can’t make at home. But the whole adventure has been fun: discovering all kinds of vegetables and fruits, knowing how to prepare them, and experiment with different recipes.

The year wasn’t perfect. I had to go a dozen times to the dentist, for cavities I delayed. This is extremely costly in Canada, where health insurance doesn’t cover dental costs. I’m still learning how to control blood sugar. Oh good times 🙂

The new year is upon us – and it’s time to start fresh. An opportunity to start new projects, to look forward, and reach for the stars. Because why not. Better be young, hungry and scrappy.

My goals for 2017 are simple: train for a marathon (amongst others), continue sharing good knowledge here, and continue working on applications and platforms like OutcomeReference. I hope to share the journey here and create a good community along the way. I also hope you succeed in your goals and have a happy, healthy 2017!

Of course, these goals won’t be possible without good foundations. When people start a new year, it’s about joining a gym and start lifting weights. Or join an aerobics class. Or maybe trying a new diet. If I have a suggestion, it’s to take a holistic view and remember that exercise alone won’t solve health issues. All these make a good foundation:

  • Moderate exercise (a good 90mn per week) will burn the fat, give you energy, and improve your immune system. Simply you can’t do without.
  • Diet is the response to any weight issues (and probably many other issues). If any doubt, look at the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and the occasional fish
  • Manage your stress. Stress can wreak havoc in your circadian rhythms, make you age faster, and make your life miserable, without you knowing it. Listen to music, take one or two hours completely off every week, spend time with friends.
  • And be conscious of environmental factors like indoor air pollution or chemicals exposure.

Of course, you can do more than these bare minimum foundations. If you have interesting ideas for 2017, let me know !