Monday, April 9, 2018

'I don't need to strength train...I do an activity'

Walking Fido is great for both of you, but it shouldn't replace a regular strength-training routine.

Often times when I am trying to promote the health benefits of resistance exercise, I come across a similar theme. People are quick to explain to me what they do in lieu of a regular strength training program, and no matter how rigorous or relaxed their program or activity is, it usually isn't a good substitute for contracting your muscles hard against resistance.

My favorite analogy to use has to do with dental hygiene. I'll ask people a simple question... "Do you brush your teeth?"

Besides the confused look on their face, they usually answer "Of course I do, everyone does."

Well why do we brush our teeth? We brush our teeth because we want to take care of them. We don't want to develop gum disease or tooth decay, and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, we basically just don't want to lose our teeth.

The same goes for strength training, I tell them. If you don't want to lose your muscles, you have to use them! In order to fight of sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), osteoporosis (loss of bone mineral density) and a host of other age-related diseases, one should look after their muscles first and foremost, since all-cause mortality is directly related to overall muscle mass.

Then they smirk. They think, "I'm not some gym rat. I'm not a muscle-bound jock who needs to pump iron to impress people. I'm too intellectual for that." So they respond by naming whatever they think substitutes for exercise.

"I go hiking once a week."

"I walk the dogs."

"I take a dance class."

"I play golf."

I nod politely, and try to explain the difference between "activity" and "exercise."

Activity is something you do for fun. It might be running, jogging, dancing, playing music, or maybe just sitting and watching TV. Believe it or not, they all have about the same effectiveness at calorie burning (another post for another time).

What differentiates activities from exercise, is exercise has a purpose. Exercise is a very specific stimulus that signals to your body make a positive adaptation. The only way to do that is to exert your skeletal muscle with a high degree of effort.

So saying you go on 20 minute walks every day for exercise isn't a bad thing, in fact it's great — but it's simply not enough to prevent the annual muscle and bone loss that happens year after year to all of us after we reach our 30s. That's like saying "I don't need to brush my teeth, I chew minty gum." Sure, your breath might not smell bad, but you're still going to need dentures.

Efficient Exercise is officially open! To be one of the first to experience evidence-based exercise in the Kittitas Valley, send an email to or call 425-214-2251 to reserve your free introductory session.