I know what gyms, personal trainers and workout DVDs are selling: Join me and get the body you’ve always dreamed of! All it takes is one hour a day, five times a week right? With the billions that gyms are making every year, you’d think we’d have a country full of Olympic athletes. On the contrary, our country is the unhealthiest it has ever been. If there are armies of individuals working out relentlessly, why are obesity rates at their highest? The problem is this obsession with chronic cardio, or intense exercise, to burn calories despite the fact that we are sitting for the majority of the day; a condition known as the active couch potato syndrome.
Exercise is very much beneficial, but not at the amount we’ve been told. Unless you’re an elite athlete who has a team of specialists helping you through a proper conditioning regime, recovery protocol and strict diet program, excessive exercise is counterproductive to weight loss. A long cardio session at the gym, where you’ve kept your heart rate elevated for an extended amount of time, can put your body under a lot of stress (causing many hormone imbalances, triggering an inflammatory response and compromising immune function). Plus, excessive exercise patterns, promote excessive consumption of glucose, even long after the exercise session has finished; you’re more likely to crave sugary foods due to chronic exercise patterns. Similarly, how many times have you allowed yourself that cookie, donut or muffin because you told yourself you’d work it off later?
Still, perhaps the biggest reason why chronic exercise is so counterproductive is due to what else you’re doing for the majority part of the day; sitting. Putting your body under high amounts of stress from chronic exercise and then sitting for over 13 hours a day, puts your body at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Other health concerns can include metabolic and hormone imbalances that inhibit glucose metabolism, elevate triglyceride levels, promote excess body fat storage and elevate blood pressure.1 Additionally, prolonged sitting has serious effects on your musculoskeletal system. When you sit for many hours a day, your gluteal muscles become deactivated from supporting your body weight and your hamstrings and hip flexors are shortened which can compromise daily movements. Even those who consider themselves to be in great physical shape are at risk. A study conducted by the University of Texas School of Public Health, looked at the activity of 218 marathon and half marathon runners training for the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. It found that they sat for 8 to 10.75 hours a day while running roughly 6.5 hours a week (40 to 30 miles a week).2 These individuals are the perfect model of what would be considered an active couch potato.
Ideally, you want to eliminate excessive cardio and prolonged sitting, and replace it with constant movement and low-to-moderate exercise routines (aerobic), combined with minimal high-intensity exercise routines (anaerobic). At low to moderate activity levels, your body will use fat, and eventually prefer fat as an energy source, while high levels of activity prefer carbohydrates as energy. Using fat for energy supports weight loss, while using carbohydrates for energy only increases your body’s need for more carbohydrates. You also want to make sure that, if your job requires you to sit for long hours, you’re making a conscious effort to get up and move every 30 to 40 minutes; even if it’s just to stretch.
Make sure your exercise routine isn’t compromising your weight loss goals. Next time you hit the gym or you’re at your cardio class, remember to keep the high-intensity exercise to a minimum. Focus on constant movement, frequent walks, slow jogs and hikes, and participating in other low impact activities. A great addition to your lifestyle would be the Healthy Body Athletic Pak™ which comes with Rebound Fx™ Citrus Punch stick packs for on-the-go energy and Ultimate Gluco-Gel capsules for joint and tissue support. Move frequently, sit less and put a greater emphasis eating nutrient-rich foods instead of daily calorie burning.
Remember, prevention is the key.
Contributing Writer and Fitness Instructor
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