Tag Archives: Exercise

My Top 3 Exercises for Core Strength (The First One Will Make You Cry)

Do them until the vein in your forehead bursts!

Yesterday, I was speaking with a relative who’s nearing 60. She’s been doing a ton of hard work to strengthen her legs after dealing with a knee issue. Now, she wanted to add some serious abdominal exercises for extra power and stability. I thought that if she needed this information, you guys might too!

Many of us know how to do a push-up, but the best exercises to work your core aren’t as well known. The classic crunches have never given me the burn and strength increases that these do.

See the video below for an introduction to all three!

  1. Flutter Kicks

A mainstay of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) training. If it’s hard enough to challenge aspiring Navy SEALs, it should challenge us too! Lay on your back and move your legs in a scissor pattern without putting them down. After 90 seconds of this, my abs are fried from top to bottom.

  1. Plank

Until I started yoga, I had probably never done a plank properly in my life. The key is to get your shoulders above your wrists. When you do this, your core muscles will engage and you’re well on your way to serious strength gains.

  1. Boat Pose

Just did this in yoga this morning! You sit down, holding your legs up and bent and your arms alongside them, and open and close your body in a V shape. I find this particularly challenging for the lower abs.

Like all strength training exercises, I suggest doing them until failure. Keep going until your muscles give out. And if you’re hungry for more strength training resources, see this post.

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What Is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?

Above: Me sucking wind after a tough workout.

We often hear what the minimum amount of exercise we need is, but what amount of exercise is actually optimal? At what point have we reaped all the benefits exercise has to offer, and possibly even gone over the edge into damaging overtraining?

With the largest snowstorm in years lashing my apartment today, I thought it was as good a time as any to try to find an answer.

The federal government recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. This establishes a useful lower bound we definitely shouldn’t dip below, but a highly cited study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that you can get further longevity benefits by exercising a lot more:

the longevity benefit threshold appears to be approximately 3 to 5 times the recommended physical activity minimum

So, in order to be sure to get the maximum longevity benefit, you need to do five times the minimum recommended level of exercise. 5x the minimum recommended level would be 1 hour 47 minutes of moderate activity daily or 54 minutes of vigorous activity daily.

Furthermore, the study found no danger from exercising even more than what it takes to get the full longevity benefit:

there does not appear to be an elevated mortality risk with LTPA [leisure time physical activity] levels as high as 10 or more times the recommended minimum.

Looking at the differences between moderate and vigorous activity, I also wondered if one is better than the other. There doesn’t seem to be solid data to say that either moderate or vigorous activity is superior from a health perspective:

comprehensive reviews of the literature on physical activity and mortality report that overall volume of physical activity is associated with lower mortality risk but report mixed findings on the relative contributions of moderate- vs vigorous-intensity activities

So am I doing enough? Looking at the pedometer app on my phone, I’ve averaged 2.75 hours per day of walking (moderate intensity exercise) over the past year. I also do about 3-4 hours a week of vigorous exercise (yoga and strength training, mostly), so about 30 min daily.

So, I seem to be comfortably above the level needed to get the maximum longevity benefit. That said, counterintuitively, I sometimes find my mood is a little lower on days I don’t do vigorous activity. (You think you’d be happy for a rest day, but maybe not!) Just because I’m at the maximum amount of exercise to produce longevity benefits doesn’t mean that more exercise might not produce other benefits in terms of mental health, athletic ability, appearance, etc.

Since there appears to be no harm from even very high levels of activity, I may add another vigorous workout (likely yoga or calistenics) to my routine some weeks, depending on my schedule and desires at the time.

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Gyms Don’t Drive COVID Transmission…So Where Is Everyone?

After I finished a workout last night, I found myself chatting with the gym’s owner for the first time. He told me that some classes would be cancelled this week, due to both a lack of instructors and students. He hoped that it would be just this week. He also said business was down over 80%. This despite having taken countless precautions, including temperature screening, distancing and masking.

The data we have indicates that COVID transmission in gyms is very rare. In New York state, just 0.06% of cases could be traced to a gym. To put that in perspective, private gatherings in homes led to 74% of traceable cases. Further data from the UK and the University of Oregon Consulting Group also indicates minimal transmission in gyms.

And it stands to reason to me that cases that did originate in gyms would be dramatically easier to trace than those that originated in most other settings. Gyms have a list of members and sign-in sheets. Restaurants, bars, or private gatherings generally don’t. So my intuition tells me that if anything, the case fraction attributable to gyms is probably an overestimate, although I cannot prove that.

We should also bear in mind that every time we work out, we get healthier. Even if you do contract COVID, from whatever source, you’ll be in a far better position if your baseline level of health is higher.

And yet people aren’t showing up at my gym like they used to. Why is that? I think the cause is a reasonable fear coupled with a lack of specific information. So, please share this info with whoever you can!

I hope to see a smile on the owner’s face and full sign-up sheets soon!

“Woman Exercising – Credit to https://bestpicko.com/” by Bestpicko is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reversing the Aging Process in Mouse Eyes… and Maybe Someday, Us?

I just listened to a fascinating discussion with Dr. David Sinclair, PhD, on his lab’s recent success in reversing aging in mouse eyes. Sinclair and his team damaged the optic nerves of mice and then, using Yamanaka factors, reprogrammed the cells to “remember” their youthful vitality and regenerate. The mice could then see! The paper was recently published in the journal Nature.

This has significant potential for treating glaucoma in humans as well as someday reversing aging in general. If cells can be reprogrammed to recover the information they had when they were young, many conditions associated with aging could be reversed.

In this discussion (available as a YouTube video or a podcast), Dr. Sinclair also details some of the key things he does to try to prevent and reverse aging

  • Supplements/medication: NMN, resveratrol, oleic acid, metformin
  • Exercise, in particular weight training
  • Intermittent fasting, about 1.5 meals daily
  • Monitoring of biomarkers through regular blood testing. He uses a company called Inside Tracker and advises them. This is something I intend to look into further.
  • Wears Apple Watch and Oura Ring to track sleep, heart rate variability, etc. This and blood tests can provide an idea if certain interventions are working.

I read Dr. Sinclair’s amazing book shortly after it came out and started taking NMN on that basis. I do seem more energetic these days, although whether that’s due to NMN is anyone’s guess.

You can also get up-to-the-minute insights on aging research from Dr. Sinclair by going to his website here and signing up for his email list, Lifespan Insider (bottom right of page). I just did and am eagerly awaiting some useful tips!

How I Took An Awesome Yoga Class for $1.75

One of the new hobbies I’ve picked up in 2020 is doing yoga. I became a believer when it helped me recover from a painful tendon injury, and I’ve been turning myself into a pretzel (or trying to) ever since.

Yoga classes can be expensive, but I’ve found a way to take great classes in person for as little as $1.75, which is what I paid last night. Perhaps as a way to coax people back into gyms, ClassPass has yoga, spinning, and numerous other classes for incredibly low rates. And you can do it all a la carte with no monthly membership fee.

You can do a 0 credit a month plan for free and then buy credits any time to take a class. That’s what I do.

I’ve taken almost a dozen classes since November and I’ve never paid more than $6. I go to a local studio with great teachers, and I feel very energized and relaxed afterward. I work out, socialize a bit, come home and eat dinner, then sleep like the dead due to the evening’s exertion.

An a la carte model is perfect right now because the COVID situation can change rapidly and impact people’s willingness to go to a gym. With this plan, you only pay when you actually go.

I don’t know of any cheaper way to do yoga, and the app is easy to use, so I strongly recommend this to anyone who is interested in yoga or other fitness classes.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be around this community of people who enjoy yoga and live nearby. It makes me feel normal and feel happy, and that’s valuable nowadays. See you at spinning tonight!

Try CkassPass for free for 14 days using this link. (If you do, I will also receive some free credits. )

“Yoga in King George Square Brisbane-06=” by Sheba Also 18 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I Found a Secret Gym!

One of the benefits of not travelling in 2020 has been discovering what’s right around me. I’ve made more new friends this year than in the prior 5 years combined. I find myself actually (perish the thought!) saying hello to neighbors! We’re even exchanging baked goods like something out of the 1950’s. And it’s totally awesome.

Besides new friends, I just discovered something else: the building I’ve been living in for 2.5 years has a gym! I peeked through a hole in the laundry room wall, where plumbers were working on a pipe. As I got closer, I could hardly believe what I saw. A secret room filled with…exercise equipment?

I passed through a door marked Meter Room, past our electric meters, and went through a second door…this one unmarked. Inside was a gym straight out of the 1970’s. Rusty iron weights, exercise bikes without a single transistor, and bodybuilding posters from decades ago.

Our superintendent created this gym entirely on his own. It’s not the Equinox, but the equipment is surprisingly varied and of high quality. He made it for himself and shared it with whoever might wish to use it. After his recent retirement and return to his home country of Colombia, he left all this here for us.

Working out in this secluded space alongside exposed pipes makes me feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Gym in the 1970’s. Until I look into one of the mirrors, at least. 🙂

I wanted to tell you about this to emphasize the wonderful things we gain from being at home more this year. We are not just missing out on travel, concerts, etc. We get something too…a new familiarity with and appreciation for the world right outside our own doors.

It also shows me the great effect one person can have on others, even others they’ve never met, with just a little care and individual initiative. People our superintendent will never see will be healthier because of what he did. What a great example for the rest of us!

How are you guys staying healthy this year? What have you discovered nearby? Let me know in the comments!