Go to Health: Moving right along
Our bodies have magnificently evolved to move, but life can get in the way: computers, sedentary work, commuting, television, child-care, fatigue. Here are two ways for busy people to vary the 30 minutes of dedicated daily exercise that has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk and keep us fit.
The Treadmill Desk—aka iPLod
Dr James Levine at the Mayo clinic disliked visiting the gym after a long workday. In his lab he is studying ‘Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis’. He has devised a way for office workers to walk slowly on a treadmill while working on their computers or talking on the phone. His lab also has a two lane walking track that serves as a meeting room. He puts the treadmill on a very slow speed (as slow as 1 mph), which is fast enough to burn an extra 100 calories per hour, and up to 1,000 extra per day on his average 10-hour workday. Levine placed 15 obese workers on treadmills in front of computers and found they burned an extra 119 calories an hour walking at their own pace. During the course of a year, those workers could lose close to 50 pounds if they practiced healthy eating, the researchers said.
Some companies, such as Mutual of Omaha and Humana, are trying out ‘walkstations’, and finding that some employees cannot get used to them, but others find it helps their ability to focus on work. While commercially produced walkstations are expensive, some people with home offices can build their own tray holding a laptop over a treadmill. Another message from this research is that staying on your feet as much as possible during the day – even with slow walking – is beneficial for weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. Keep moving! Here are two good websites that illustrate these strategies.
Interval training is alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario are studying whether humans can increase endurance with only a few minutes of strenuous exercise, instead of hours. They had a group of healthy college students, not athletes, ride a stationary bike at a sustainable pace for between 90 and 120 minutes. Another set of students grunted through a series of short, strenuous intervals: 20 to 30 seconds of cycling at the highest intensity the riders could stand. After resting for four minutes, the students pedaled hard again for another 20 to 30 seconds, repeating the cycle four to six times. Each of the two groups exercised three times a week. After two weeks, both groups showed almost identical increases in their endurance, even though the one group had exercised for six to nine minutes per week, and the other about five hours. Additionally, molecular changes that signal increased fitness were evident equally in both groups. People who have a chronic health condition or who haven't been exercising regularly should consult a doctor before trying interval training, and overuse injury of muscles and tendons can also be a problem. Here’ a recent website on interval training:
Sadja Greenwood, MD –back issues on this blog, leave a message! no column on 7/6/09; celery & purslane on 7/13/09