What is it?
How do we get it?
We nearly all want to be strong and healthy, and we know that proper exercise can help us achieve those goals.
What kind of exercise is best?
How much time and energy is required?
Is there risk of injury?
What kind of results can be expected?
I’ve heard it said that “The best kind of exercise is the kind you will do”. I think there’s truth in that.
But besides being a form of exercise that one will do, it’s also important that the exercise be:
- effective in meeting one’s health goals
- efficient with time
- efficient with money
- safe (injuries can be huge set-backs)
One very good candidate for the “perfect form of exercise” is explained in the book Body by Science, by Doug McGuff
I’ve been following this 12 minute per week, low-impact, high benefit strategy for 10 weeks now with excellent results.
There’s tons of information out there on the subject. A good summary is here.
Video for “Why?”: (about 11 minutes)
Video for How: (about 3 minutes)
from the “Why” video above:
“… your body responds to signals, and the hormonal environment. So what you want to do with your workout is to produce the appropriate signal… You will sequentially fatigue out those motor units… so that you become progressively weaker with every second that you work out…
and somewhere around here, you will start to feel really panicky, because your body instinctively feels the window between your capability and the resistance selected closing, and it produces an intense panic, because that intense panic came out of millions of years of evolution where you were wrestling or fighting with a rival or an animal and you were very equally matched, and when that fatigue starts to close the window between your capability and the resistance, you know you’re about to die. That’s encoded into your DNA…
If you are appropriately motivated or appropriately instructed, you continue to produce effort for another five to ten seconds.
… so what’s happened, in this single set of exercise that took 60 to 90 seconds, is a rate and depth of fatigue that calls to you from your evolutionary past, and says “you nearly died!” and “you need to adapt to this”. So the next time you’re ever faced with a struggle like like this, you will have some reserves left over. This is a strong stimulus to synthesize new muscle and the metabolic systems that support it. So what happens is that over the course of several days, you will synthesize that new muscle…”
“… If you learn to apply a stimulus that’s meaningful (hard), that hard workout will lead to a short workout. If you can stand a workout that lasts more than 12 or 15 minutes, then you’re not working hard enough to awaken that ancient message in your DNA that says to adapt…”
From the book Body by Science (p 246)
A REVOLUTIONARY STUDY
In closing, we would like to share with you a study that can only be described as “revolutionary” in its impact in regard to strength training and senior citizens. As unlikely as this may sound, it revealed that strength training can actually reverse the aging process.
For the study, the results of which were published in the online medical journal Public Library of Science, researchers recruited twenty-five healthy seniors (average age seventy) and an equal number of college students (average age twenty-six). All of the subjects submitted to having muscle biopsies performed, and 24,000 genes were compared for each participant. It was noted that 600 genes were markedly different between the older and younger subjects. Prior to the study, the senior and younger groups were found to have similar activity levels, though the young people, as one might expect, were considerably stronger than their older counterparts. The seniors then took part in a strength-training program for six months. Afterward, the researchers found that the seniors had gone from being 59 percent weaker than the young adults to being only 38 percent weaker. More important was the change in the seniors’ genes. The gene-expression profile (or genetic fingerprint) of seniors changed noticeably, looking a lot more like that of the younger trainees. The researchers concluded their study by stating:
Following exercise training the transcriptional signature of aging was markedly reversed back to that of younger levels for most genes that were affected by both age and exercise. We conclude that healthy older adults show evidence of mitochondrial impairment and muscle weakness, but that this can be partially reversed at the phenotypic level, and substantially reversed at the transcriptome level, following six months of resistance exercise training.
Nothing else in human history has shown a functional reversing of age in humans at a molecular level When the drug Resveratol was show to product some reversal of aging in mice and worms, it flew off the shelves as an age-reversal agent — without any proof that it had similar effect in humans. Now here, after millennia of searching for the “fountain of youth” — anything that might extend life or objectively reverse aging in humans, going back as far as our earliest recorded literature in The Epic of Gilgamesh — a clinical study has essentially said, “Look, here it is — an actual functional reversal of aging at the molecular level!” It is astounding that genes that were functioning poorly at an elderly level could be returned to a normal level of functioning in elderly people.
But it’s not surprising to us, nor to anyone who performs the type of training that we advocate. It’s not unusual to see an elderly person start working out with minimal weights and then, in a short span of time,see the person’s strength be equal to or greater than that of the average twenty-five-year-old. We have seventy-five- and eighty-year-old clients training at our facilities and routinely when we bring in a new twenty-five-year-old client, the weights at which we start the young adult do not approach what most of our older established clients are currently using.
Having said this, the most amazing thing that happened after this study came out in 2007 was — nothing. That news of this magnitude should come out during our lifetimes and not be on the front page of every newspaper and on every evening news program was inexplicable to us. Perhaps it failed to garner much attention because people are more willing to take a pill, thinking that it’s going to reverse aging, and it’s only an exceptional individual who would hear such news and say, “I can do something for myself, by the sweat of my own brow; by applying my own effort and my own work ethic, I can achieve this for myself!” Perhaps.
For this benefit to occur, an individual of any age must be willing to train with effort, a rare find in our society. The beautiful thing is that the ones who understand and apply this principle are the ones with whom we get to work — and the ones who are reaping all the benefits we’ve covered in this book.