Live Longer with Less Exercise
When it comes to working out, moderation may be the best method
For patients of weight surgery, moderation in exercise is crucial to avoiding injury. However, many patients may find themselves frustrated by their inability to engage in more vigorous activity after surgery for weight loss, imagining how much quicker they might be able to reach their goals if they could only work out harder.
If you’re one of those people, you need to understand that this logic is fundamentally flawed. Though exercise is an important component of weight loss, straining yourself to exhaustion isn’t the path to a slimmer waistline—it’s the path to making yourself so sore that you can’t work out for several days after. You need to start slowly and build your way up carefully, but even if you reach a level of physical fitness that allows you to take part in more strenuous activities, sticking to moderation may still be the best idea.
Studying the “Less Is More” Philosophy
A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco determined that when it comes to exercise, harder and faster is not necessarily better. Researchers sifted through health records from over 50,000 Americans who had received physicals for the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas between 1971 and 2002 and checked their findings against participant death reports. In the 27 percent of participants who reported regular running, the incidence of death was found to be significantly lower, but runners also reported widely varying levels of running intensity and distance.
Joggers, or those who ran between 1 and 20 miles per week at about 10 or 11 minutes per mile, were found to have a lower incidence of death than those who ran more than 20 miles or faster than seven miles per hour. This meshes with another recent study in Denmark, which looked at data from 27 years of the Copenhagen City Heart Study to determine that those who spent just one to two and half hours per week jogging at a slow or moderate pace had significantly longer lifespans (6.2 more years in men, 5.6 years in women) than peers who were either sedentary or ran faster and longer.
When it comes to the efficacy of exercise in fighting numerous chronic diseases and improving heart health and lifespan, the science is clear. But other recent research has also shown that training for and competing in exercises that require extreme endurance, like marathon running and lengthy bike races, may actually result in structural changes to the heart and arteries that can lead to serious injury. As such, most experts now view the benefits of exercise as a bell curve—once you pass that ideal level of moderation, your exercise will produce diminishing returns, and more extreme levels will actually become detrimental to your health.
So if you’re a patient of weight loss surgery, don’t fret about your inability to run 22 miles a week or take home first place in a marathon. If you get in your recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, you’re actually doing your body more good than the fitness-obsessed folks who run five miles a morning. You can keep on track with your weight loss goals by hitting that workout moderation sweet spot, and you may just live longer as a result.