Self Help Sat Nav
Hi and welcome to Episode #2 why sitting down is worse for you than you think.
I want to talk with you today about a book I read some years ago, which I found really helpful in getting me to take better care of myself. It’s a book called The First 20 Minutes.
But before I get started talking about the book, I want to tell you a story. It’s the story of my mind, which gets told when I think about going for a run. Now, I know that I really enjoy running, but I don’t run regularly and my routine with it – well you could say I don’t have one. The truth is that despite my love for running, I put it off too often and too easily.
Sound familiar? Like this morning for example. I woke up around 6.15am. I had made a tentative aim the night before to get up and get out the door whilst the children were still asleep. Then I’d be back in time for their breakfast and to take my eldest to school. But, when it came to it, my mind told me a story. It told me “I can’t be bothered”. It told me “it’s raining so I won’t enjoy it.” It told me, “I’m too tired.” And so, what do you think happened?
Yep, you got it. I stayed in bed those few minutes longer, by which time my window had gone. I let my mind choose for me. And, as a result, now, as it approaches lunch time, I regret not going.
Now, I know that I am not alone here. Many many people put off or avoid doing exercise, because thoughts like these get in the way. Its just how we are built. Its easier to do what is easy now, then it is do what is harder. We follow the path of easiest resistance. Delayed gains are less of a motivator than immediate ones. It is a problem and it can be a struggle.
So, what do you do about it?
Well, that is where my book for today’s episode comes in. The First 20 Minutes is a book writtne by Gretchin Reynolds back in 2013. Gretchin is a jounralist for the NY Times and columnist on the subject of health and wellbeing. In her writing she “she debunks myths, spurs conversation, and stirs controversy by questioning widely held beliefs about exercise.”
Her book, the first twenty minutes focuses on giving you information and lessons in the health benefits of exercise. Previously only available in academic and medical journals, she brings to you the facts of what we know about the effects of being active on your mind and your body.
Now, it hardly comes as a surprise that exercise and being active is good for you. It can help you lose weight, you can get stronger and faster. We know it is good for your heart and your mental health. These beliefs are widely known I think.
But what Gretchin does really well here is to dispel some common myths. Actually, she corrects us e.g. you might think that going out for a longer run like say 90 minutes is better for you than doing 30 minutes. Well, this might be true up to a point. You’d burn off more calories for sure. But what Gretchin shows us is that the vast majority of health benefits come from doing just 20 minutes of exercise a day.
There are of course health benefits that occur after 20 minutes, but the proportions are much smaller. For example, by doing 20 minutes a day, you can reduce your risk of dying younger by 20%. So, just 20 minutes a day will help you to live longer. After 20 minutes, the reductions in mortality go down to 4%. So, yes, longer exercise can be better, but only marginally.
Another really useful fact I’ve taken from this book is that it is really unhealthy for you to remain sedentary i.e. laying on the couch for hours on end. Or sitting at your desk all day. Even sitting down for more than 30 minutes at a time starts to negatively impact your body.
There is a great 2 minute video at fitness.mercola.com (just check the show notes) for the link, which shows you lots of ways that sitting is bad for you. Such as increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Apparently, the negative effects of sitting for 6 hours or more every day are not counter-acted by going to the gym. Instead, the advice is to make sure that you get up regularly to increase your blood flow and your heart rate. Sitting for no more than 3 hours at a time on a regular basis will give you another 2 years of life.
Ok. So let’s look at some other key bits of active information.
Lets look at walking. You might have come across the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps every day. Have you got a pedometer? Pedometers are those devices you can put round your wrist or get on a fancy watch that tell you how many steps you’ve taken. They call also tell you how many calories you’ve burned off.
The average is thought to be about 3-4000 steps a day. So, most are way short. We tend to walk less than we realise, You need to be walking for about 150 minutes if you are moving about doing jobs …that 2.5 hours a day to rack up 10,000 steps. Or about 5 miles if you are walking more briskly from a to b, which you could do in less time.
This piece of research comes from the Cooper Institute in the US. They’ve concluded that the difference between 2000 steps a day and 10000 steps a day is about 4-5 years in life.
So, the advice of course is to get more active. Try and work some ways you can get in those extra steps. Park a little more away from work. Get off the bus ½ mile away from your house. Walk more distance knowing that you are working wonders for your health.
Now, if you are short of time and putting in those steps isn’t realistic, then you might want to look at shorter more intense work-outs. High intensity intervals training as it has come to be known, done in just a few minutes can deliver equal health gains to a much longer bout. For example, if you do some intense cardiovascular work like running, cycling, swimming for 1 minute, slow for a minute and then do another minute of high intensity….do this 10 times thus giving you your 20 minutes, then you’ll give yourself the same health gains from doing a 90 minute run.
When I read that I was stunned. It seems unbelievable. But, it has to be high intensity. That is the catch. You have to get your heart rate up to at least 90% and keep it going for that minute.
OK, so let’s look at some other reasons you might want to do exercise. Lets take losing weight. Now, we all know the simple maths – to lose weight you need to take in less calories. You have to burn off more than you consume. The trouble for a lot of us is that we get busy exercising but don’t change our diets. We continue to eat the same. Either eating too much at meal times or eating snacks in between meals. Alcohol in the evenings can also be the thing that exceeds your calorie intake for the day.
The message from the research is that eating less is how you lose weight. Exercise is what helps you keep it off. Each day and over time, you need to set up a different pattern with your eating and build a sustainable exercise routine in order to lose weight and keep it off.
Now, lets look at the other end of the spectrum. Say the person who is intend on giving themselves a 6 pack. Apparently, there are absolutely no physical health advantages of having a six pack. Its all about image. A much better indicator of health is to have a strong core.
Your core is your lower back and abdomen area. Exercises like crunches, side planks, they strengthen your core. So too does yoga of course.
And finally, the last myth she corrects is in the area of stretching. Apparently, stretching before exercise doesn’t help. It has not been proven that it reduces injury. The conclusions are more open i.e. that it can’t be disproven categorically, but it is more likely that warming up works better. Warm ups that focus on increasing joint motion and body temperature work better – so a simple jog and dynamic stretching as opposed to static stretching.
Static stretching is when you stretch out those leg muscles before a game. I used to do that before playing football, but i found that I might be more likely to strain it in advance. Now, I jog for a few minutes, warm up my body and my muscles. Get my joints working more flexibly by doing gentle dynamic stretches. This is when you gently swing your leg back and forwards gradually extending the muscles.
I’m going to point you at this point to something called the 7 minutes work-out. There is a good youtube video on this at lifehack.org. Basically, it shows you 12 different exercises that work out your whole body either in one go on in separate tasks. You can find the link in the show notes transcript below.
So, to sum this all up. Being active is great for your body’s health and for helping you to live longer. You only need to do 20 minutes a day of cardio workout. You can focus on walking for 10000 steps a day and you can shorter high intensity work outs. Doing smaller amounts like this and every day will help. And, one of the most important findings here is to make sure you don’t sit down for more than 3 hours at a time. Of course, they’ll be times when you don’t achieve this. But, try to make it your routine rather than something you do every now and then.
The messages in this book have really stayed with me and I hope they will with you too. Just knowing these things won’t always be enough to get you out the door and running. I know this stuff and I don’t run as often as I’d like. There are other ways of helping yourself, which hopefully, you’ll come across in future episodes.
And the other thing we haven’t spoken about today is the around the benefits to wellbeing and the brain. We’ll have to look at this in a future episode.
Thanks for joining me and tune in next time for episode number 3 where I’ll be talking with Joe Oliver about his book Activate your life. Bye for now.
Gretchin Reynolds – The First 20 Minutes
https://youtu.be/3491LjQldT0 Good Books Radion
7 minutes workout http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/master-the-7-minute-workout-with-this-video.html
Here is what sitting too long does to your body