Just Beating My Drum: Lack Of Exercise Kills As Many As Smoking

If you want the pop science report, you can read it in the LA Times. If you want to start skimming the study that is featured in the article, you can read the abstract here (I can’t yet access the full article).

Now if we could get epidemiologists to look at the quality of exercise rather than the volume of “exercise”…

About these ads

9 thoughts on “Just Beating My Drum: Lack Of Exercise Kills As Many As Smoking

  1. Meh…

    What percentage of non-exercisers aren’t exercising because they already have a health problem that is keeping them from exercising? The vast majority of non-exercisers will still live just as many years than they would if they had exercised. They are certainly better off if they exercise, and especially engage in some sort of strength training, but the overall hard outcome isn’t likely to change much. I also think there’s very little chance that a significant number of people who currently don’t exercise can be encouraged to get regular exercise to make much of a difference.

    The exercise industry is probably as responsible as anything else in keeping people from exercising. They see what they think it requires and get scared away. People need to know that it doesn’t take that much of a time commitment to get nearly the full benefit. You also don’t need a gym, personal trainer, or special equipment. Have shoes of some sort? There ya go!

    In the end, however, it’s all much ado about very little.

    • Bill,

      You said, “The vast majority of non-exercisers will still live just as many years than they would if they had exercised. ”

      The problem with this is that many very active people don’t consider their high-NEPA lifestyle to be filled with exercise so they don’t self-report “exercising” in survey studies and confound the whole damn thing.

      However when you look at studies where they’ve actually collected clinical data, those who have higher levels of exercise have a lower all-cause mortality, especially in the elderly.

      You said, “The exercise industry is probably as responsible as anything else in keeping people from exercising. They see what they think it requires and get scared away.”

      No disagreement there. The notion of lots of “exercise” being necessary is something I’ve fought against my entire career.

      You said, “You also don’t need a gym, personal trainer, or special equipment.”

      You also don’t need more than a stick & a fire to cook some meat, and a brain surgeon doesn’t need more than a black and decker drill to get into our heads but having the right equipment for the job, not gimmicky shit but real, science-driven tech, makes it that much easier to get the physiological response we’re after without the orthopedic hazard that accompanies cruder methods.

      • “You also don’t need more than a stick & a fire to cook some meat, and a brain surgeon doesn’t need more than a black and decker drill to get into our heads but having the right equipment for the job, not gimmicky shit but real, science-driven tech, makes it that much easier to get the physiological response we’re after without the orthopedic hazard that accompanies cruder methods.”

        Maybe. I certainly don’t want my brain surgeon to use a Black & Decker on my noggin, but if I use “primitive” equipment for my workout (which I’ve been doing for over 30 injury free years) I’m still going to get a good response (I’m 47 years old and leanly muscled with ~10% BF. I also drink beer and eat pizza and hamburgers on a regular basis, by the way).

        It becomes about access. How many people can gain access and even be able to afford the trainers and equipment to do a “proper” HIT type workout? The answer is very few. I know I don’t. It then becomes what they can do with what they have access to. You can do a lot with your own body weight if that’s all you have. You’ll certainly be better off doing body weight workouts than no workouts at all. It costs nothing, takes up no room, and you don’t have to drive anywhere. For myself, it’s free weights in my basement and regular hiking and physical labor. If my only option was to drive to a gym and pay a trainer, then I’m not sure how regular my workouts would be.

      • No maybe about it. First the brain surgeon who uses a black and decker drill when he volunteers free medical service in the Ukraine:

        http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2008/03/18/brain-surgery-with-power-tools-not-so-hard-after-all/

        So that’s how I look at using primitive tools: they work in a pinch, and provide greater accessibility to those who don’t have the financial means or personality to seek out a good trainer with better tools, but they are in no way an equal to a better tool for that reason. They, like a campfire compared to a combi oven, are a compromise. They might achieve the same end result but they’ll do so with less control, less predictability, and smaller margin of error.

        I think it’s tricky comparing what you have managed to do to the thousands and thousands of people who will not consider taking the time to learn how to use such tools. Even people will to pay for a gym membership think it’s about going in, making a weight move up and down 10 times, and then *poof* they’re fit. Just like there are 90 year old women who, through luck and enough self interest, have never been to a doctor, there are “older” (not old, you’re not even middle aged yet ;) ) who are in great shape with limited tools and without professional help. My concern is the turkey fallacy; I’ve plenty of old ironheads become receptive to a good environment with good equipment after they really hurt themselves with primitive tools. I hope you’ll stay lucky. I like to reduce my risk and increase my predictability and if a person who has never exercised before, thus never bitten by the “iron bug” takes up this endeavor, the shorter the lead time is to looking and feeling better (reducing the learning curve) the more likely they are to stick with it and see real results in health and vitality.

        I’m glad what you’re doing is working for you and hope it continues to do so in the future.

      • Does a good personality get you free workouts? There are no HIT facilities in my city, so the most winning personality in the world isn’t going to gain me access.

        This is all part of the turn-off of HIT. It becomes overly dogmatic and absolute. Almost religious, really. You post a study about how most people, possibly much to their detriment, aren’t getting exercise yet promote a system that is not going to significantly increase the number of people who will engage in exercise. The number of people on the planet who have ANY sort of realistic access to doing “proper” HIT would be in the tenths of one percent. The number of people who can bust out some pushups, body squats and do some walking? Nearly 100%, I would think. If the idea is to get more people engaging in exercise, then it would mostly have to be in a non-HIT manner for it to be accomplished. HIT, by it’s very nature, has no chance of reaching the masses. That’s just the reality of it.

        Now, with much risk and danger, I will get in a workout and then mow my lawn. I may also do a short, though very risky hike or walk.

        I live on the edge.

      • You keep using HIT but that’s not what I do. I look at the evidence from the researchers (not the latest muscle head, “Russian secrets”, or current vogue fitness industry nonsense) and apply that evidence when training my clients. If you think the science is absolute and dogmatic, perform a study and produce a different result.

        We are just going to keep talking past each other so I say again: I’m glad what you’re doing is working for you and hope it continues to do so in the future.

  2. If only there were more high quality studies that isolated variables like the quality of exercise. Or didn’t rely on self-reported data. Or…oh, who am I kidding.

    High-quality exercise is still a fluid and controversial thing to define, but it would be pretty easy to compare HIIT to treadmills, well perhaps not so easy in this sort of extremely broad epidemeological study. While I think it’s probable that lack of exercise is as bad as smoking, I think studies like this are borderline junk science.

  3. Bill,
    Yup. At 62 I’ve done a lot of exercise protocols, but the one I stick with is what fits in with my lifestyle. for strength training, I have used free weights, machines and body weight and pretty much got the same results for all of them. In the end I prefer low tech. I also believe that daily activity is a huge factor, and I don’t think you can compensate with a HIT workout once a week. Plus there is the fact that if exercise becomes a clinical and miserable experience, people simply won’t do it. Nor is there much evidence that most will benefit.
    But in the end, exercise has to be tailored to the individual and their lifestyle and genetics. there simply is no one-size-fits-all exercise protocol.

Comments are closed.