Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On the value of exercise

New reader holymotherofgod and others have pointed out the value of exercise, and I don't want my last post about the Hacker's Diet to mislead anyone about my attitude about exercise.

I'm all for it!

The "What, Me Exercise?" chapter in the Hacker's Diet explains -- and I can agree on some level -- that exercise alone won't solve a weight problem... or at the very least, you shouldn't be adopting exercise with the sole goal of getting thin without considering other things. A solid one-hour walk, non-stop, will burn barely more calories than a peanut butter sandwich. I'm not saying don't walk -- I'm saying cutting out the sandwich will have about the same impact on weight loss, and walking plus sandwich-not-eating gets double the bang.

So, why exercise? Here's what I understand, without having to look it all up to convince myself:
  • Resistance training builds muscle.
  • More muscle means more metabolic activity, so you can burn even more calories even when you're sleeping.
  • Resistance training builds strength. It's good to be strong so you can handle daily activities better: lifting heavy boxes of kitty litter, hauling furniture, getting your ass off the couch, etc.
  • Resistance training fosters a healthy skeleton. Put stress on your frame and your frame gets stronger in response. It's nice to head into old age with properly calcified bones!
  • Losing weight through dieting can sometimes be taxing on the muscles, as the body breaks down body tissue for energy. Regular training keeps the body in muscle-building, not muscle-eating mode. (Is that anabolic vs. catabolic, or am I just full of words I don't quite understand today?)
  • Vigorous exercise works your heart and lungs, making them work more efficiently. Hard things become easier, and easy things become, like, soooo easy. Going up stairs may still make your heart beat fast and your lungs huff and puff, but you'll recover more quickly.
  • Training your muscles regularly makes them more efficient. The blood will flow in and out of them more easily. They won't get as sore.
  • Muscles look good. It's good to look good. Good things are good. Good.
  • It's simply good to *do* something! Exercise often involves *doing* something. Maybe something social, maybe something solitary, but you're doing something!
  • People who exercise tend to live longer. Sure, you might drown while swimming or get hit by a car while jogging, or get divebombed by a crow while cycling, but those are exceptions.
  • A well-trained body will be more resistant to injury. And with more well-oxygenated blood flowing through your deliciously efficient circulatory system, you'll recover more quickly if you do get injured.

There's probably more to say, but I hope you get the point -- the point is, I get the point that exercise is important. Even if it's not the key to losing weight, the two surely go hand in hand. If you're trying to lose fat, one can assume that you're also trying to get healthier overall, and there's no arguing that exercise is important to overall health.

On that note, I gave my overall health an overall step-forward leading-leg roundhouse kick in the ass last night. I returned to taekwondo on the hottest night of the year so far. Thank heavens Master Yang was offering training t-shirts (black shirts with school logo -- nothing particularly athletic about them) for sale (at $18), because if I had have worn the full uniform, I probably would have gone into ... well, the opposite of hypothermia. Hyperthermia, I guess.

As it was, I felt like a 400-watt light bulb combined with a sprinkler. I don't remember ever sweating so much ever in my whole life. Whoa. Lots of fun -- lots of sweat. Heat. Exertion. Good stuff.

4 comments:

  1. And that's a plus too, right? That sweaty, red-cheeked time where you can feel almost smug about having been so downright good to yourself by getting a workout...and knowing that you can carry that feeling for the rest of the day.

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  2. A lot of people don't get any exercise because they don't like to sweat..I am not sure where this comes from exactly. I know for myself that I don't like sweating when i am not exercising (having the big spot on the back after getting out of my leather-clad car seats on a 30+, humind toronto day) - it's kind of embarrasing i guess.
    But at the gym, I never understand this aversion...in fact, i often wonder what people are doing there if they're not willing to sweat?!?
    Anyway, I like the gym-sweat, and am glad to hear you're getting there too Bigass!
    Good stuff - keep it up!
    Jojo

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  3. I'm totally with ya, jojo.
    Sitting-around sweat sucks ... walking-around sweat is a pain ... but sweat dripping off my face and soaking my shirt when I'm working out -- aside from being uncomfortable with my glasses on -- is a joy. It lets me know I'm working hard. I love it.

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  4. hooray! glad to see ya back in action :) at the very least, sweating is good for your skin (supposedly).

    as for the sweating, if dogs had any kind of brain for physiology, they'd look at you with pure envy, man. enjoy it.

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