The Truth About Exercise

In this documentary from the BBC, Michael Mosely looks into how much we really have to exercise. He asks if we really have to pound the streets or the gym for hours on end to be healthy. And, in the introduction, he mentions new research that suggests we can get the same benefits from just 3 minutes a week of exercise.

My notes from The Truth About Exercise

  • he starts by trying to learn from people who push their bodies to the limit
  • he talks to an olympic hopeful in the 110 meter hurdles who does 30 hours training a week
  • Michael pulled a muscle after just 3 paces of a practice race
  • “One of the reasons people want to do exercise is because they think it’s going to help them lose weight” states Michael and he asks “Is it as simple as that?”
  • They get him to jog around the track while measuring his exhaled breath to estimate how much energy he is using
  • He would need to jog for 55 minutes to burn off a cappuccino, a muffin and a banana.
  • To really lose weight you have to control what you eat
  • But important benefits of exercise do lie deeper in our bodies
  • Gentle exercise reduces the amount of fat in our blood
  • Micheal is worried about his visceral fat and the possibility of getting type-2 diabetes
  • A long walk triggers an enzyme that changes the way the body handles fat in the blood
  • The fat tends to be extracted from the blood and put into the muscles instead of visceral fat stores
  • But he had to do 90 minutes of hard walking to reduce the fat in his blood by 30%
  • Some scientists are suggesting that high level bursts of exercise can produce the same effect
  • People respond very differently to the same amount of exercise – this can be traced to the expression of 11 genes
  • For some people exercise doesn’t help much but for others it can help a whole lot
  • HIT – High Intensity Training can improve health markers
  • Michael has to do 3 bursts of 20 seconds of the hardest cycling he can do and do that 3 times a week
  • This type of exercise really breaks down the glycogen stores in the muscles, and it activates 70-80 of the muscle tissue at the same time
  • It’s short but extremely intense
  • It really is a full body workout including the respiratory system
  • Michael is going to try this for 4 weeks
  • At the same time he’s going to try increasing his NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), basically all the moving we do during the day
  • They observe how just the way you move during the day can contribute very much to your wellbeing
  • Most of us sit to much, take the elevators and aren’t very active during the day
  • The human was designed to move throughout the day
  • With effort to move more, Michael burnt 500 calories more in a day and didn’t sweat at all doing so
  • Consistent low level exercise in every hour of the day is key – being sedentary in a chair is dangerous – “who would have thought that a chair can kill?”
  • Other research is looking to how it’s your brain that actually causes the fatigue feeling when you exercise hard
  • There research actually proves that the muscles can do more, but it’s the brain that stops it
  • The “subconscious brain is triggering an automatic shutdown”
  • After the 4 weeks of the HIT program, Michael has his health checked again – blood glucose had a 15% reduction, insulin sensitivity improved 23%, aerobic fitness improved a little but his VO2 max didn’t improve. Michael is a non-responder in terms of aerobic fitness.
  • Exercise should be tailored to individuals
  • HIT and NEAT could help a lot of people improve their health
  • “The chair is a killer”

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