PJ's Fitness Blog

A blog about a fitter you. Come find out what is on the cutting edge of fitness science and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

Fast or Slow Exercise?

I’ve been preaching fast (short duration, high intensity) exercise since I got tired of slow (long duration, low intensity) back in 1987, so there’s no surprise about my choice. Personally, I train less than 10 minutes a day, so by the end of the week, I have worked out for less than an hour – including cardio, weights and everything. That’s pretty fast.

Fast, high intensity cardio training is the best for the muscles, lungs, joints, heart and physical appearance because it spares and even helps build muscle which is what allows us to sculpt our bodies into how we want to look. This type of “cardio” isn’t anything like the traditional cardio most people do. My style takes about 10% of the time (or less) and raises the hormones that build the metabolism and burn fat.

Slow, long duration cardio on the other hand, shrinks muscle and even eats it away, making it impossible to build a custom shape to the body. Recent research has even found that chronic long duration exercise is hard on the heart and also breaks down the joints. Show me a career marathoner at 60 years or older and I’ll show you someone who has chronic knee pain at best (if not hips and/or back pain too).

Health reasons aside, let’s just talk about physical appearance, since that’s what 95% of us care most about anyway (whether we openly admit it or not). Actually, let’s not talk about it. Let’s make it even easier than that. Just have a look at the pictures below and you choose which body you would prefer to build.



Personal Training Buffs Up Your Brain

New studies show that forced exercise is better for the brain than voluntary exercise. Long story short: Three groups of mice. One group sat around in their cage (this is most Americans in their house). A second group ran on a wheel in their cage whenever they felt like it (this is most Americans taking themselves to the the gym and training alone).  A third group ran on a wheel at a predetermined speed and duration set by the researchers (aka “forced exercise” like having a personal trainer).

Results showed that the sedentary mice got dumber (no surprise). The voluntary exercisers got smarter and the forced exercisers got the smartest. This shows that exercise is good for the brain (duh), but being pushed past what they would do on their own is the best for the brain. This is personal training – especially X Gym style, since it is the most intense workout on the planet. Probably in the galaxy too. Borderline positive even in the universe as well. So in other words, X Gymers are the smartest people in the universe (duh).

Furthermore, we know that whatever is good for the brain is also good for the heart and vice versa, so we can assume that personal training is best for the heart too. Whatever is good for the heart is good for the body (especially your butt), so we can assume personal training is also leaps and bounds above everything else too. But then again, we already knew this. It’s just nice to see it validated by science. And to have an excuse to use the word “duh” a few times.



Is High Intensity Training the Fountain of Youth?

Of course you’d expect me to say so, but science has uncovered some compelling evidence that backs me up:

  • Exercise triggers mitochondrial biogenesis, a decline of which is common in aging; this reverses significant age-associated declines in mitochondrial mass, and in effect, stops aging in its tracks.
  • Aside from impacting your skeletal muscle and fat tissue, researchers noted that exercise induces mitochondrial changes that may also benefit your liver, brain and kidneys.
  • One of the best types of anti-aging exercise is high-intensity interval training (like X Gym), which boosts your body’s natural production of human growth hormone, a synergistic, foundational biochemical that addresses the serious muscle loss and atrophy that typically occurs with aging.
  • Longevity is the result of an overall healthy lifestyle and exercise is of course, a key component.
  • Telomeres are the little caps on the ends of your chromosomes that keep them from unraveling and shortening, which causes aging. Stress is one of the top factors in degrading these telomeres. High intensity exercise happens to be the best antidote for stress.
  • Physical exercise, more than mental exercise, protects your brain against age-related changes; people who engaged in the most physical exercise showed the least brain shrinkage.
  • Exercise, diet, and stress management are three primary factors that play key roles in maintaining sharp mental function as you age.
  • Exercise promotes brain cell regeneration and production of key brain chemicals and growth factors such as BDNF, which is important in maintaining memory, skilled task performance, and overall cognitive function.



Does Exercise Really “Matter?”

When it comes to “matters” of the brain, exercise is downright vital!

White matter and gray matter are the two key kinds of tissue in the central nervous system.
While grey matter is associated with information processing and cognition (thinking), white matter acts as a relay and coordinates communication between different brain regions.
The volume and health of the brain’s white matter affects how well we learn … and declines in volume or structural integrity will cause brain dysfunctions that lead to dementia.
Now, a study from Scotland suggests that physical activity may be especially important for preserving the brain’s white matter and keeping it healthy (Gow AJ et al. 2012).
A team at the University of Edinburgh set out to see which of the non-dietary factors known to affect the health and volume of white matter – exercise, mental activity, and social connections – might work best to maintain it.
The Edinburgh group recruited 691 people aged 70 years, who agreed to report their physical, mental, and social activities.
Three years later, the researchers used “computational image processing” to examine the participants’ white matter, looking for lesions and other signs of atrophy.
The results showed that the people who reported the most physical activity also had healthier white matter … that is, their white matter showed less atrophy and fewer lesions.
Surprisingly, the volunteers’ mental and social activities appeared to exert little or no effect on maintenance of healthy white matter.
As lead author Dr. Alan J. Gow commented in The New York Times, the difference may be the advanced age of this particular research cohort.
But as he also told the Times, it still makes sense to pursue mental and social activities:
“There might be associations [between these activities and white-matter health] earlier in the life course. Such activities also have important associations with well-being and quality of life, so we would certainly agree it is important for older adults to continue to pursue them.”
What’s the takeaway?
Don’t rely on any one thing as insurance against premature brain decline.
Pay attention to diet, work your mind, keep up social activities … and move your body!
  • Godin O, Maillard P, Crivello F, Alpérovitch A, Mazoyer B, Tzourio C, Dufouil C. Association of white-matter lesions with brain atrophy markers: the three-city Dijon MRI study. Cerebrovasc Dis. 2009;28(2):177-84. doi: 10.1159/000226117. Epub 2009 Jun 25.
  • Gow AJ, Bastin ME, Muñoz Maniega S, Valdés Hernández MC, Morris Z, Murray C, Royle NA, Starr JM, Deary IJ, Wardlaw JM. Neuroprotective lifestyles and the aging brain: Activity, atrophy, and white matter integrity. Neurology. 2012 Oct 23;79(17):1802-1808.
  • Saczynski JS, Jonsdottir MK, Sigurdsson S, Eiriksdottir G, Jonsson PV, Garcia ME, Kjartansson O, van Buchem MA, Gudnason V, Launer LJ. White matter lesions and cognitive performance: the role of cognitively complex leisure activity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Aug;63(8):848-54.
  • Tan ZS, Harris WS, Beiser AS, Au R, Himali JJ, Debette S, Pikula A, Decarli C, Wolf PA, Vasan RS, Robins SJ, Seshadri S. Red blood cell ω-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging. Neurology. 2012 Feb 28;78(9):658-64. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318249f6a9.
  • Vernooij MW, Ikram MA, Vrooman HA, Wielopolski PA, Krestin GP, Hofman A, Niessen WJ, Van der Lugt A, Breteler MM. White matter microstructural integrity and cognitive function in a general elderly population. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 May;66(5):545-53. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.5.
  • See article in its entirety at VitalChoice.com

National Take the Stairs Day

Yep! It’s official! 1/9/13 is National Take the Stairs Day!

Use this day to elevate your own health by banning elevators and escalators!


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