Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the optimal amount of exercise

We finally have the truth.

If you've read my writing for any length of time, you'll see a few recurring themes about how much to exercise:

  • Generally speaking, it's important to get up and move around - being healthy assumes at least a little bit of fitness.
  • Diet is more important than exercise - it takes an almost un-doable amount of exercise to out-run you're poor eating choices. For example, running for an hour burns about 900 calories (give or take), while a single chicken burrito from Chipotle can cost you over 1,000 calories!
  • There's not a perfect amount of exercise - some is better than none, and consistent is better than inconsistent, but don't get caught up in the arms race of "most fittest". Breaking a sweat for 15-20 minutes a couple-few times a week goes a long way towards being healthy.
  • Fit and healthy doesn't guaranty longevity, but being overweight virtually guarantees you won't get there. (I've never found evidence of an obese centenarian.)


Interestingly, I read an article last week on FiveThirtyEight (a stats-nerd's dream website - those of you not familiar with it should check it out.) where they looked at the statistical differences among people who walk-jog-run different distances and at different speeds.

It's a long, deep, intensive article (and still worth reading!), but here's FiveThirtyEight's conclusion (emphasis mine):

"If we take this research at face value, we learn a few things. First, some exercise reduces your risk of death. Second, the optimal walking/jogging exercise is light to moderate jogging. The optimal speed is between 5 and 7 mph, and if you do 25 minutes about three times a week, you're all set. Nothing in the data suggests that running more - farther, or faster - will do more to lower your risk of death."

Wow! Statistical evidence, compiled by people far smarter than myself, who agree that exercise is connected to longevity, and that the arms race to most fittest isn't necessary. That's great news all the way around.

Eat a moderate amount of real food and get a moderate amount of exercise, and you'll have the statistical advantage of being healthy in your favor!

- Chris Butterworth

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