Does Fitness Equal Health?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Look at Christie Brinkley...she's 57 and she looks hot.  She credits dancing with keeping her figure svelte and fit.  She's the walking picture of health, right?  So is Mario Lopez, that dimpled hunk of a host at EXTRA...seen his 6-pack lately?  He's fit...and healthy too....right?  If you are nodding your head affirmatively then you, like most, equate fitter with healthier, right?  Well, according to experts and recent studies there may be a limiting point when fitness levels actually cross over to the dark-side.  Let me explain.

     

    A recent study analyzed the blood of marathoners, less than 24 hours after they had run a marathon.  What they saw surprised them.  Levels of inflammatory and clotting factors were raised to the point that they resembled levels of someone who had just sustained a heart attack.  So when is "more not better?"

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    Experts in the field of health suggest that optimal health is a combination of many things - physical and mental.  If you have someone with high stress levels and they decide to exercise in an extreme fashion to manage their stress, it may actually be counterintuitive and counterproductive.  Over-training can actually have a damaging effect on the body.  Too much exercise may tap into the body's lean mass for energy, causing stress and elevating levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.  Lead experts in the study point to the fact that our ancestors never did long distance running without rest.  Yet many exercisers push themselves day after day with harsh exercise formulas and do not include recovery days. Or within one day they have several vigorous and intense periods of exercise, never allowing for adequate rest time.  Even animals like leopards and gazelles, who run long distances, allow for periods of rest. 

     

    The researchers suggest that walking may actually be the ideal exercise approach.  Walking with short periods of running or bursts of speed is a good way to interval train and allow for cardiovascular training coupled with rest periods.  And the takeaway message is that ongoing and repeated bouts of repetitious, stressful exercise patterns without restful balance may not lead to optimal health.  So what should you do?

     

    Choose exercise that you enjoy, so you are more likely to stick with it.

    • If you challenge yourself one day with a vigorous, extended exercise, then balance it the next day with less intense exercise.
    • Make sure you don't eat more because you are exercising - there is a fine line between healthy eating and justifying extra eating because you are exercising.
    • Find a way to happily embrace exercise because you need to "work out your body" on a regular basis so that it continues to optimally function, and so that you preserve quality of movement.  Find activities you enjoy.

     

    What's your favorite exercise?

Published On: August 24, 2011