Posts Tagged ‘Ultimate Fitness – book review’

Last night I went out to run in the school yard across the street.  Hil and I drove back from Mom’s and got a rough estimate of the mileage / distance – a little over 11 miles if I go via Ygnatio Road from Clayton to Walnut Creek.  Hil objected that it was too far to do as a first run and I would have to get out and try some other street runs first.  I countered that I should be able to do it in the 4 hour time limit I’d set in my 5 jogs during January.  She responded it’s not the same when you’re on the street and doing hills.  I said, I know.  That’s why I was allowing 4 hrs to do 3 hours distance.  I believe my school yard jogs are about 3.5 mph, so 4 hours is about 14 miles – more than enough to cover the distance.
Anyway, I ended up going out on the road.  I jogged up to the North Concord BART station and then down to Salvio, up past the main library and then back home along Esperanza.  I was still short of 90 minutes, so I did two laps in the school yard to finish up the 90.  In all, I estimate about a 5 mile jog.
I felt real good afterwards.  I was trying out my new shoes and they were very comfortable.  I got them for 50 bucks.  About half the price of the running store I went to last weekend.  At the moment, I believe the difference between a great running shoe and an ok one is a $3 footpad insert to increase the cushioning under the balls of my feet.  Since I’ve adopted this “new” running style, that’s where most of my pain seems to be.  I also noticed that adding the small hills to my jog last night has made a big difference in my Achilles heal not hurting at the end of my jog (or today).
Saturday, I went out and did two of my favorite things – I bought books and a new pair of running shoes.  I must have gotten about 15 books for under $75.  I got a dozen off the clearance racks, so they were $1, $2 or $3 each.
One of the books is:  “Ultimate Fitness” (2003©), by Gina Kolata.  The author was / is a science writer for the New York Times.  The book is a review of the science and history behind the fitness industry.  The book was eye-opening for me because I’ve always assumed the “basics” for fitness were grounded in solid scientific research.  As it turns out, very little of what I’ve thought was “true” is, in fact, proven.
Fundamentally, there is substantial scientific evidence that going from no exercise to four or five 30 minute sessions of any moderate exercise are enough to move a person to significant health improvement over the complete non-exerciser.  After that, there is little or no evidence of any improved benefits to health or longevity.
The author makes a key point that health is not the same as fitness and one has to do a lot more exercise to become “fit” than one needs to do to gain health.
The author makes the same claims about strength training.  A moderate amount builds you up to your natural base, but after that, you need to do a lot more and a lot more specific training to make substantial gains.
On consideration, these statements just make common sense (as uncommon as that may be).
One very interesting discovery the author relates is to do with why 220 beats per minute is considered the maximum heart rate for humans.  It turns out this was not based on any “vast and thorough” research study.  It appears the two scientists who “discovered” the rate found it by examining 10 papers on maximum heart rates.  The sizes of the individual studies is not provided, but the author states they were small samples.  She goes on to add they were limited in that they were all men, white, under sixty-five and predominantly young.  She implies the studies may have had their own internal biases because the samples were taken at cardiac centers and not from a random sampling of the population.  The stated bias is (at least) the two most likely people going to a cardiac center for testing are cardiac patients (who will not represent the general public) and young athletes, seeking to find out the limits of their fitness training.
Because the two researches were US government employees at the time and were presenting their findings at a symposium, they had the imprimatur of truth / fact.  Over time, the “findings” were repeated enough they gained the status of gospel (“urban legend”).  I think the story is particularly interesting because I’ve seen posters with the 220 number on walls at my gym and at my cardiologist.
Other than establishing that most of what I thought about exercise is marketing and misunderstood science, the author spends most of the time discounting the hype-sters of the fitness movements/fads.  Again, this is pretty much just more common sense…
All in all, a very interesting book and I highly recommend it.

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