Thank You, New York Times Magazine

This morning, the 2011 New York Times Magazine’s Health and Wellness Issue arrived at my house.  Something about the Times coverage of Wellness issues is appealing to me.  In a time where most media sources publish quick result diets and magical workouts, the writers employed by the times seem to understand more about exercise and nutrition than their peers.  It’s a nice change of pace to read about interval training rather than the latest and greatest walking program for senior fitness.  Sprinting?  That’s more like it.

Fortunately, the readership of the New York Times is far greater than that of my blog, so I’m sure that many more people will come in contact with the three articles I found most interesting from today’s issue.  If you’re my friend on Facebook, you may have seen the links in your newsfeed, but you’ll see links and summaries of these three below.  Read them, pass them on to your friends, and live long and prosper.  Or at least throw out the processed foods you’re eating, get off of your butt, and go squat and run stairs.*

The first article that I’m posting was actually sent to me by a friend at the beginning of last week, when it was first released.  In “Is Sugar Toxic?“, Gary Taubes weighs in on lecture on YouTube from Dr. Robert Lustig, titled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth“.  The video was posted on July 29, 2009, and has already amassed almost 1 million views.  I first watched the one and a half hour long lecture about a year ago, but it was a great re-watch, thanks to Matt.  It turns out that Gary Taubes, who wrote the books “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat” agrees with what Lustig is saying, and they both caution about the overabundance of refined sugars in the typical American diet.  It will take some time, but I’d suggest watching the video, reading the article, and taking better care of your own nutrition.  Again, you can find the link to Taube’s article right HERE, and I’ve posted the YouTube video below:

In the next article, James Vlahos poses the question, “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?”  The simple answer is ‘Yes’, while science shows that too much sitting can shave a few years off your life.  After tracking the health of of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006, a study by Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, showed that study participants who sat for more than 6 hours had an increased overall death rate of 20% for men and 40% for women.  That’s scary information, and I know that it makes you want to get away from your computer and move around a bit.  Before you do that, though, check out the entire article HERE, and get all of the information.  Then try to figure out how to spend more time on your feet, like using a stand-up desk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  According to the science of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, every little movement counts.

Now that I’ve scared you from eating sugar or sitting on your butt, you might be wondering about how to burn a few calories and get moving.  That’s perfect, because Gretchen Reynolds penned a piece that asks, “What’s the Single Best Exercise?”  It’s a great question, because we’re all trying to get the most bang for our buck, right?  Well, scientifically speaking, simply walking provides a great deal of benefits.  In fact, “sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week.”  That’s pretty damn good for such an easy level of activity, right?  If you think that endless cardio is the answer to life, wait for a second. “If he or she tripled that amount, for instance, to 90 minutes of exercise four or five times a week, his or her risk of premature death dropped by only another 4 percent.”  The author noted that if you’re already active, brisk walking is probably the last thing you’d think about as great exercise.  Fortunately, Stuart Phillips, Ph.D., prefers the squat, because it “activates the body’s biggest muscles, those in the buttocks, back and legs.”  Simple body weight squats are potent, and once body weight isn’t enough, you can use external loads.  Squats, and weight training in general, have numerous benefits, including weight management, lowered risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and increased cardiovascular fitness.  (You already knew that from reading my blog, right?)  A great take-away quote from Phillips is, ““I used to run marathons,”… Now he mostly weight-trains, “and I’m in better shape.”   People will always want to find the perfect blend of exercise, right?  To combine the aerobic benefits of walking and the power development of the squat, try running stairs.  This recommendation comes from Martin Gibala, the the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  While Gibala’s recommendation is designed to make the most out of exercise, I’d personally weight that balance in favor of the power output.

I’m obviously a huge fan of strength training, and I think that including squats should be a given.  Just like the deadlift, the chin-up, and the push-up, I think that it’s a universally applicable exercise, regardless of personal health, performance, or aesthetic goals.  Changing Gibala’s recommendation slightly, I think that hill sprints are a little bit better than running stairs, for a few reasons.  On a hill, you can set your stride at whatever length you want, unlike on a staircase.  It’s simple, but it can prevent over or under striding, which can lead to injury.  While the hill cleans up your sprint stride length, it also improves your technique because you’re forced to lean forward and aggressively drive the arms, which contribute to overall speed.  Finally, due to the angle of the hill, you generate higher forces than you would on flat ground, allowing you to develop muscular strength and power.  Imagine running some hill sprints after you perform some squats.  Obviously more difficult than a brisk walk, far more beneficial.

In the three articles above, there is a host of information on how to eat better, live better, and exercise better.  It’s my hope that by posting it, readers can learn how to make the most of their bodies and their lives.  If you haven’t dedicated a day of your life to exercise, or if you haven’t missed a workout since you began exercising, there is something that you can do to be better tomorrow than you were today.  Tomorrow is only an hour away, so I’m going to get to bed and let you figure that out.  I hope everybody had a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to a few extra hours this week during which I can enjoy the sunny weather this week,  golf, and run hill sprints.

*That’s the condensed version, if you were wondering.

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