There are some lies that thrive in the deepest holes in the human soul. I am coming to peace with the reality that the folks who live in my community are not immune. I hear about these lies, without the use of words, each time I talk through the importance of lifetime fitness.
Evidence that their “facts” are wrong doesn’t not dispel their belief in the lies. Even when they “discover” that their facts are wrong, the lies live on. In history, these kinds of thinkers are called “flat earthers,” and they draw conclusions of grand incorrectness like “Columbus discovered America.” They occupy the same space as those thoughts, and they are tough to let go! They offer the intellectual validity of the claims that good luck comes from leprechauns and eating low fat foods makes you less likely to be fat and stay thin. I digress.
Here is a short list of a few beliefs that I combat in our culture, when it comes to fitness.
- As we age, we shouldn’t exercise vigorously; our risk of injury increases as does our risk of a heart attack.
- We get fatter as we age. That is just the way we are made.
- Running creates aches and pains and are best explained by our bodies wearing out. We best address this wearing out by doing something else and enjoying our twilight years.
- We need to invest our time in our children, not it our bodies. Our days of glory are passed. The next generation deserves their opportunity, now.
There are no ads and no products to sell once you read the articles. It is the closest thing we have to pure science.
In each instance, there are some pieces of thoughtful research that I can share (and have) but they are typically heard only by those who already believe them.
I don’t like to google search related website on the Internet. We can prove that smoking isn’t dangerous with the thinking that “it is on the Internet.” I prefer using sites that focus only on research studies and have content reviewed and commented on by people of equal knowledge. In in cases below, I have embedded a link for you to read. I use the National Institutes of Health, The Center for Disease Control and the National Library of Medicine. They are not “facts” but the results of lengthy and diligent research fixated on discovery that can be repeated or followed up on by intelligent people. The steps they take are repeatable, and all the known constraints and assumptions are spelled out. The authors are also open to being wrong.
- In practice, research shows that high intensity exercise affects fat mass percentage and muscular strength, ESPECIALLY in the elderly. For normal sedentary people, a life of sitting, standing and laying down leads to a relatively predictable drop off in fitness after age 40, regardless of diet. Intense exercise is the antidote.
- Fat accumulation happens not because we age. It happens as a response to increased inactivity and cellular senescence. Fat cells turn over many times in a lifetime. They come back as one of many mechanisms to protect us from our failure to take care of ourselves. To combat fat, we can two things that make a predicatable difference. Eat real food (that is, food without ingredients) and exercise consistently and with intensity. Internal mechanisms that signal to the body, “it is time to make visceral fat and subcutaneous fat,” are minimized. If you are fit, you already know this. If you aren’t fit, give it a try.
- Aches and pains are not “wearing out” of our bodies during fitness. They are a cumulative effect of many life choices and events. If I had a dollar every time someone asked me, “Doesn’t running wear out your knees?” I would be a rich man. In a research project involving a lot of folks from many institutions was published, those of us who are older athletes who run weren’t shocked. All my neighbors were. Running did not increase the risk of knee damage or arthritis in a sample size of over 2600 people with an average age of 64. No difference. Zippo.
- This last one mandates that I prioritize the truth over political correctness. Our kids need their parents to be their heroes, not their lecturers of what life was like, “back in the day.” Our society has not come to peace with the truth that our children and their beliefs represent their response to what they see in their parents. Show me a fat kid, and there is a fat mom or dad in the equation, somewhere. When I hear a fat parent talk about the sacrifices they make for their children, I bite my tongue. Want to sacrifice? Break the cycle of trashing your body and take care of it, instead. Sacrifice for your children three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing will motivate your child to be healthy like you setting an example. Let them see the look on your face when you are pushing yourself to the limit, and they will know what it means to work hard. Don’t think that telling them about your tough day at work will either inspire or teach them to work hard.
There exists a powerful group of naysayers in fitness who think this conversation remains moot since some people are born more physically talented than others. To them, I quote Leyk and associates at the German Sport University in Cologne. “Aging is a biological process that can be considerably speeded up of slowed down by multiple lifestyle-related factors.”