Loved this article about Gretchen Reynolds’ (no relation) new book, The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer.
Reynolds, a New York Times health and fitness columnist, looks at what you can do to makes the most difference for your health with the least effort. It’s surprisingly easy. Exercise trumps diet, and it only takes 20 minutes a day, and it doesn’t have to be anything more than standing.
This interview reinforces the new knowledge that prolonged sitting is unhealthy. I now use a timer to remind me to stand up and move when I’m doing anything that requires long hours at a computer.
Here are some good bits:
The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.
If someone starts an exercise program and improves his fitness, even if he doesn’t lose an ounce, he will generally have a longer life and a much healthier life.
But the science shows that if you just do anything, even stand in place 20 minutes, you will be healthier.What would be nice would be for people to identify with the whole idea of moving more as opposed to quote “exercise.”
There is a whole scientific discipline called inactivity physiology that looks at what happens if you just sit still for hours at a time. If the big muscles in your legs don’t contract for hours on end, then you get physiological changes in your body that exercise won’t necessarily undo. Exercise causes one set of changes in your body, and being completely sedentary causes another.
I really do stand up at least every 20 minutes now, because I was spending five or six hours unmoving in my chair. The science is really clear that that is very unhealthy, and that it promotes all sorts of disease. All you have to do to ameliorate that is to stand up. You don’t even have to move.
The human body is a really excellent coach. If you listen to it, it will tell you if you’re going hard enough, if you’re going too hard. If it starts to hurt, then you back off. It should just feel good, because we really are built to move, and not moving is so unnatural. Just move, because it really can be so easy, and it really can change your life.