Walking the dog is as good as the gym!

November 27, 2008

Walking the dog is as good as the gym! 

Competency # 4 Activity            ReferenceAm J Clin Nut  Nov 2008 Miyashita et al p 1225

 This is a treasure of a study.  Repeated moderate exercise is as good as all at once.  This research study explains a lot and it gives us all lots of hope.  We all have an image in our minds that exercise means going to the gym.  You have to pay a monthly fee and find some sort of Spandex you can squeeze yourself into.   And then you have to actually go.  We know that walking 20 minutes every day will keep your brain healthy.  We reviewed that last month.  

The question remains, do I have to squirm into Spandex and go to the gym?  Do I have to do it all at once?   We all have excuses and the inconvenience of going somewhere to exercise is a high barrier. Well, no more.  Miyashita did a very interesting experiment.  He recruited healthy young men with no illnesses and divided them into teams.  The teams had a variety of exercise regimens.  One was to do nothing at all but read and watch TV.  (That’s us).   The second was to walk on a flat treadmill for 30 minutes once a day.  The final was to walk 3 minutes, 10 times a day.   

Men were not allowed to have any extra activity. They all ate a precisely similar dinner and breakfast, Dr Miyashita carefully measured blood pressure the NEXT day, as well as the effect of the standard breakfast and dinner on body fats all day long the next day.

 What he found is eye opening.  It turns out the 10 bouts of 3 minutes each was JUST AS GOOD as the 30-minute bout.  He was precise.  They measured blood pressure all day and it was 7 points lower for both exercise groups.  It dropped from 117 mm Hg to 110.  Both groups, just as much.   And they measured the blood fats response to the standard breakfast and dinner and found no difference in the two exercise groups.  Both were 16% lower than the couch potato group.  That means the effect of the exercise is to lower your blood pressure up to 24 hours afterward… 

 This study was designed to be doable for anyone.  It wasn’t getting sweaty.  It wasn’t running until you are out of breath.  It was just brisk walking, and the participants got to define just what brisk was.  That part was self-directed. Did you get that?  Three minutes at a time, ten times a day is just as good as going to the gym for control of blood fats and blood pressure.  Now, that isn’t cardiovascular training.   You can measure even more good stuff happening to you if you exercise to the point of being sweaty.  

But Dr. Miyashita’s study builds on our NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) reporting.  We know that NEAT activities (housekeeping, talking on the phone standing instead of sitting, weeding the garden, putting away laundry standing instead of sitting) burns half the calories of rigorous gym activity. 

 WWW: What Will Work for me.  Well, well.  I am good at working on a list of easy stuff.  I can do 3 minutes at a time.  I can tuck it into a day’s activity.  No sweat.  Then, all I have to do is build up 3 minutes at a time until I’m at 30.  It doesn’t have to be one block all at once.  It’s good for my brain, it’s good for my waist, and for my heart.  “Honey, I’ll walk the dog….”

Written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)