On World Exercise Day, we learn from UC Davis molecular exercise physiologist Keith Baar how our bodies respond to physical activity and why intense exercise is better for your heart than walk more steps. Baar is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and Physiology and Membrane Biology.
Why is exercise so important for the body?
Even with perfect nutrition, your body will lose muscle and fitness if you’re bedridden or don’t exercise enough. Physical inactivity has a huge effect on our body. It causes about 16% of deaths in the United States each year. Not only does exercise keep us alive, but the healthier we are, the better we break down potential toxic chemicals that destroy nerve tissue and lead to depression and dementia.
It’s very clear that despite a good diet and a normal weight, people can still have a much higher risk of chronic disease if they’re unfit. The key is to combine a healthy activity level with a diet that allows you to maintain a healthy body weight.
Some suggest walking 10,000 steps a day or half an hour a day. What is your recommendation on daily exercise?
Studies show that walking 8,000 steps a day has a dramatic effect on all-cause mortality. Still, walking is better than doing nothing.
In an even cooler study from Copenhagen, they studied people who cycled to work. They asked if you cycle longer, does it have a beneficial effect and you live longer?
Or when you cycle, should you go faster? Essentially, they asked if the benefits were greater with intensity or duration. They found that the intensity was better and greater. People who moved faster added about five years to their life expectancy, while those who moved farther saw no additional benefit. Therefore, adding high intensity exercises is really important.
We know that exercise is also good for the heart. Are some exercises better than others for the heart?
Jeremy Morris led the first studies on physical activity and heart disease. It first compared deaths from heart disease between drivers and London Transport Executive drivers. Bus drivers drove all day with minimal physical activity, while conductors walked up and down stairs on double-decker buses to check tickets. The study found that conductors whose jobs required high physical activity and lots of stair climbing had lower rates of coronary heart disease.
Morris did a follow-up study on heart attack risk among postal workers. He compared the risk in heavy athletes, such as those who delivered mail on foot or by bicycle, to those of light athletes, such as post office window clerks and telephone operators. He found that delivery people had a much lower risk of heart attack.
Another study compared these factors to “heavy duty workers” who moved heavy weights as part of their job. This study found that those who lifted and moved heavy objects had better heart health. So again intensity is really important.
The point is, we need to be physically active to help the heart work better and some of that work needs to be high intensity.
It’s very clear that despite a good diet and a normal weight, people can still have a much higher risk of chronic disease if they’re unfit. -Keith Baar, UC Davis Molecular Exercise Physiologist
As for the best type of exercise, I would say it has to be one with a resistance element. This type of exercise works your heart against a heavy load or a lot of pressure. For example, when you lift something, especially with your legs, your heart has to work against greater pressure. It makes your heart stronger.
Resistance exercise is good if you could do it several times a week. If you have chronic high blood pressure, you will need to be careful and focus on your breathing to minimize the pressure buildup. High-intensity exercise, whether it’s strength training, going fast on your bike, climbing stairs, or lifting weights, has a better effect on your heart than just walking on a floor. flat.
What’s your advice to people who work behind a desk or don’t get a chance to get serious exercise?
They always tell you to park a little further and walk more, but that will only give you a few extra steps. It doesn’t do much for your heart health.
I would say when you’re on foot or on a bike, make your journey quick. If you are walking, walk briskly to get a better return on your time. If you ride a bike, go a little faster than you feel comfortable with.
Also, I would recommend taking a 5 minute break every hour. Get up and move around, ideally take the stairs. Basically, if you have multiple floors in your building, climb the stairs several times a day – the more floors the better.
Finally, if you could do some bodyweight exercises at the desk, like a set of single-leg and double-leg squats, that’s a great option. Adding a few squats maybe a few times a day would have a great effect.
Three steps to better health:
• Do a few sets of squat sets
• Climb the stairs during the break
• Walk or cycle a little faster than you feel comfortable with.