Why being a “weekend warrior” may actually be optimal for your health

For years, I’ve been telling you how both human biology and scientific research support moderate exercise. Note that I said moderate—not running marathons or mindlessly manipulating machines in dank, dark gyms. 

Of course, regular physical activity is good for the body and mind. But I’ve found—and research backs me up—that the best activities, especially as we age, are walking, hiking, swimming, or house or yard work. Not only do you get moderate, whole-body exercise, but you also reap physical and psychological advantages from doing it outdoors.  And you can also get some productive work done.

So why do so many health and fitness “experts” disagree with this sensible advice? Because it hits them right in the pocketbook when the lemmings don’t slavishly report every day to their stinky, sweaty, insalubrious gyms. Not to mention how excessive exercise pumps up the profits of the ridiculous, overpriced, overhyped sports shoe, equipment, and apparel industries.  

And it’s not like the “experts” can cite credible research showing that their theories about hard-core exercise are right. In fact, two large new studies reiterate the impressive health advantages of just moderate exercise. 

One study shows there are big benefits to being a “weekend warrior,” despite all of the warnings against it. And another study reports that too much exercise can actually damage your gastrointestinal tract.

I’ll give you all of the details in a moment, but first, let’s look at the many ways that overdoing your workout can harm your health…especially as you age. 

Excessive exercise leads to excessive health issues

“Nothing succeeds like success,” said The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas over 150 years ago. Near the dawn of the 20th century, British author Oscar Wilde responded with: “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Perhaps a suitable quote for that century? 

But in Chinese medicine, there is a name for taking anything to extremes: “taxation fatigue.” Too much of anything taxes the body—and the mind.  

That’s certainly true when it comes to exercise. For instance, I’ve written before about how excessive running on hard surfaces leads to joint damage—and the modern industry of dangerous joint-replacement surgeries. 

New research directly examined skeletal tissue in joints and showed that knee osteoarthritis has more than doubled since prehistoric, early farming, and early industrial eras—when there was more physical labor than there is today. What is it about our modern postindustrial society that has led to increased joint disease? The new study concluded the rise was not in part to people living longer or having more body weight. It’s obvious to me it stems from excessive unnatural exercise like running on hard artificial surfaces. (For more on this, see my October 17 Daily Dispatch.)

And modern medicine has no more of a clue about the cure, than it does about the cause. In fact, as I pointed out in the January 2015 issue of Insiders’ Cures, research shows that a whopping 56% of joint-replacement surgeries are inappropriate or ineffective (you can access my newsletter archives by visiting the “Subscriber” section of www.Dr.Micozzi.com and logging in with your username and password).  

Meanwhile, common joint supplement ingredients like chondroitin and glucosamine are useless. But if more people took my ABCs—ashwaganda, boswellia, and curcumin—for their joints, not to mention other health benefits, we would no longer have an epidemic of joint issues. 

Excessive running (as with marathon runners, reported in the May 15, 2017 Daily Dispatch) also damages the kidneys—through a combination of dehydration and the break-down products of stressed, damaged muscle tissue, which are toxic to the kidneys.

And a variety of studies show that over-exercising also damages your heart muscle. Not the prescription we need when heart disease remains the No. 1 killer, especially as we get older.

Standing still and engaging in excessive body building is not a solution either. Too much lean body mass (muscle) has its own negative metabolic impacts, just as excess body fat does. 

Why you shouldn’t “gut it out” when it comes to exercise 

Research shows that moderate physical activity can substantially lower your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, and more. It also reduces your risk of gastrointestinal diseases, such as gallbladder and liver disease, and acid reflux (GERD).

Knowing all of this, I was surprised when I saw a recent review of eight studies that discussed the new phenomenon of “exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome.”1 

But then I heard the cause of this syndrome, and it made perfect sense.The study authors say the syndrome results from prolonged, vigorous endurance exercise, like running and cycling. 

The body and mind experience this type of exercise as severe stress. In addition to all of the other damage created by too much exercise, the severe stress it puts on the body causes gastrointestinal function to shut down.   

How? The study notes that over-exercising muscles shifts blood flow away from the GI system, starving it of oxygen and energy. This insufficient blood supply may cause cell death and inflammation that damages the protective cell lining in the GI tract. Intestinal bacteria may also enter the bloodstream and travel to parts of the body where they don’t belong (essentially causing a blood infection).

The researchers found that the risk of GI injury and impaired GI function appears to increase with the duration and intensity of exercise. Heat stress also seems to be an exacerbating factor. And people already struggling with GI disorders and diseases appear to be more susceptible to exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome. 

So how do you guard against this dangerous syndrome? Inexplicably, none of the study authors gave the simple, commonsense recommendation to just stop over-exercising and practice moderation.

Instead, they offered all kinds of advice, including maintaining proper hydration. Of course, this is always key, but “experts” who go on about fluid and electrolytes miss the importance of hydration at the cellular level, which I’ve discussed many times before.

The study authors also suggested that people avoid taking NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) before working out. These painkillers may damage the same organs that are harmed by excessive exercise. 

And they recommended consuming small amounts of carbs and proteins before and during exercise—along with following a special diet called “FODMAP” (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols—or sugars).   

But of course, they say you will need a dietician to create a FODMAP diet just for you. Dieticians are the same geniuses who continue parroting the useless government dietary recommendations, even two years after the government itself admitted they were all wrong, all along. But try telling that to a dietician still wondering how many eggs you can “get away with eating.”

The study authors don’t seem to get the irony of telling you to eat more (unhealthy) carbs and sugar, just so you can continue getting too much (unhealthy) exercise.  

Which leads me to the second new study I mentioned earlier.

Want to live longer? Exercise just once or twice a week

For years, health and fitness experts have derided people who only get exercise on weekends, labeling them “weekend warriors.”  

Never mind that these are sensible people, who I’m sure have better, more productive uses of their time and money than to report for a daily dose of abuse in a stinky, sweaty gym. 

They often feel like they’re running on a treadmill every day at work, where they actually get paid. So why would they want to spend time every day, before or after work, running on a real treadmill at a gym—where they have to pay for the “privilege”? 

And yet, they’re criticized for this quite reasonable approach.  

For years, “experts” have warned that people who exercise “irregularly” (meaning when they actually have time) will likely suffer muscle strains, heart attacks, and worse. And they won’t derive any health benefits from their weekend workouts.   

But a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals there are actually substantial health benefits for people who only exercise on weekends.2 

The study was conducted on 63,000 adults in the U.K., with an average age of 58, from 1994-2012.  

The researchers found that those who worked out only once or twice a week still accumulated at least 2.5 hours total exercise per week. And they had 30% lower mortality compared to those who didn’t exercise at all. Rates of cancer and heart disease were also lower in this “weekend warrior” group, and similar benefits were reported in both men and women.

A sub-group of these sensible subjects were considered to be “insufficient” exercisers, since they only accumulated a total of one hour of exercise per week. But this group had even lower risk of mortality than the main group (31%).

What about those who worked out three or more times per week (dubbed the “regularly active” group by the researchers)? They pushed themselves to spend a total of 7.5 hours per week exercising (a full work day). And yet, they only had a 35% reduced mortality risk. That’s 4% improvement over the one-hour-per-week group. Or about one half of a percent, for each extra hour of exercising.  

The bigger issue is that a whopping 63% of people in the study reported no exercise at all, which is not good. But, clearly, you don’t need to be like the 11% of subjects who followed the guidelines for regular exercise of three or more days per week. 

My exercise Rx

All of this makes me wonder: What good are “regular exercise” guidelines when they are wrong—and when the vast majority of people simply don’t, can’t, or won’t follow them?

Here’s what I think you should you do instead. Get outdoors and exercise, preferably in the sunshine and in nature. Don’t worry about the daily grind. Just make sure to get about of 2.5 hours per week total of moderate exercise like walking, hiking, swimming, or gardening.  

If you feel you must go to the gym, walk there… and then, immediately turn around and walk back home or to work. You’ll feel great, save money, and improve your health and longevity to boot. 

Sources:

1Costa R.J.S., Snipe, R.M.J., Kitic, C.M., Gibson, P.R. (2017 June 7). “Systematic Review: Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal Syndrome-Implications for Health and Intestinal Disease.” Aliment Pharmacology and Therapuetics. 46 (3), 246-265. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28589631#

2O’Donovan, G., Lee, I.M., Hamer, M., Stamatakis, E. (2017 March 1). “Association of ‘Weekend Warrior’ and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality.” JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(3):335-342. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28097313

 


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