Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another miracle cure -- the 3-minute-a-week exercise plan

Alas, another story that starts with "The Truth About...".  Why do these stories all seem to promote miracle cures?  Last week sugar was toxic, and now, exercise makes you fat, but there's a cure!  Maybe if you quit going to the gym, you can go back to eating sugar.  Though, the obvious next finding is that what's killing you is not just sugar, or exercise, but the sugar you eat because your exercise makes you hungry.

What's the story?  It turns out that three minutes of high intensity exercise (HIT -- High-Intensity interval Training) will make you fit.
The HIT approach, combined with gentler exercise such as walking and even fidgeting (yes, there’s an acronym for it and it’s NEAT – Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), will do the trick.
Walter Mosley at work -- briefly
Yep, much better than 3 hours a week, because those three hours make you hungry, and worse, give you visceral fat, which is the kind that kills you.  A BBC presenter, Michael Mosley, was put through the paces -- or rther, lack of paces -- at Nottingham University, where investigation into the effects of HIT vs traditional exercise are underway.
Scientists at Nottingham University who measured Mosley’s reaction to the High-Intensity Interval training (HIT) sessions recorded a 30 per cent improvement in the effectiveness of his insulin action: that’s the body’s ability to move glucose out of the bloodstream — where it can become a toxin and lead to the build-up of dangerous visceral fat — and into muscle tissue, where it is of benefit.
Just for the record, this sounds suspiciously like what cutting sugar out of your diet is supposed to do for you, as well. And you don't have to have a gym membership for that!

Who knows?  Maybe these guys are onto something.  But, this 'everything in moderation' taken to the extreme seems .... a little extreme.  The paper on this work hasn't yet been published (but will be soon), but it does seem as though whether this method works for you depends on what you exercise for, and thus how you measure it.  And, if you're exercising to lose weight, clearly it shouldn't be the only thing you do, so the idea that exercise alone will help is iffy; if you're exercising because it's how you meditate, or you really love doing it, 3 minutes a week isn't going to do it.

Ken was in the Air Force a while back (a long while back), and they had adopted an exercise/fitness program developed by the Canadian Air Force.   It was called 5BX, and was only a few minutes a day, but at a graded intensity level.  If you progressed through that you really were fit, at least for some short-term exercises.  But that was before the aerobics era, in which you had to do exercise for enough time to shift your energy use from short-term to stored (anaerobic to aerobic), and the point was to get your heart in shape.

Since then the jogging fad or habit spread widely, again led by various gurus and their claimed magical ideas.  Lot's of us run, bike, swim, or whatever, and while some of the gurus have died of coronaries while running or whatever it is they do, overall it seems to be quite salubrious.  But, what it's good for depends on what you're doing it for.

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