I blogged the fact that I lost two stones of weight in six months without going hungry, dieting or exercising below. At least dieting in the sense of cutting back and feeling hungry. I did this by sticking with the stone age diet six days a week, allowing one day for sin such as drinking wine or eating sugared cakes. My health has been very good, with much better energy. Here now is the same message for exercise. Do why we did when we were living in caves, and your health will benefit. The good news is, it’s easy, costs less, and takes less time.
Long-Distance Running Damages Your Heart
Do you pride yourself on running mile upon mile, week after week? Do you love the challenge and adrenaline rush that comes from completing a marathon?Let me preface the information that follows by saying this: as a former sub 3-hour marathon runner myself, I understand the drive that pushes many athletes and weekend warriors to compete in these strenuous events. But now that I have examined the research, I firmly believe doing so may put your heart at risk. For example, two recent studies showed:
- Heart damage after lifelong cardio: In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology,v researchers recruited a group of extremely fit older men. All of them were members of the 100 Marathon club, meaning athletes who had completed a minimum of 100 marathons. If running marathons provided cardiovascular benefit this would certainly be the group you would want to seriously examine. So what did they find?Half of the older lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring as a result, and they were specifically the men who had trained the longest and hardest.
- Heart scarring after elite cardio training: An animal study published in the journal Circulationvi was designed to mimic the strenuous daily exercise load of serious marathoners over the course of 10 years. All the rats had normal, healthy hearts at the outset of the study, but by the end most of them had developed “diffuse scarring and some structural changes, similar to the changes seen in the human endurance athletes.”
Is There a Better Way to Exercise?
Science now suggests that the best fitness regimen is actually one that mimics the movements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, which included short bursts of high-intensity activities, but not long-distance running such as is required to complete a marathon. The idea behind “hunter-gatherer fitness” is to closely emulate the actions that ancient man took on a daily basis. This is what your body is hard-wired for, after all, and includes such attributes as:
- A variety of exercises performed regularly (weight training, cardio, stretching, etc.)
- Alternate difficult days with easier days
- Interval training sessions performed once or twice a week
- Weight training at least twice a week
- Ample time for rest after physical exertionYour exercise program should be challenging, as it was for our ancestors, but it should not be excessive and it should be paired with ample time for recovery. Just as too much strenuous exercise can hurt your heart, too little will not be enough to give you the benefits.The good news is, the most recent research shows that relatively short bursts of intense exercise—even if done only a total of a few minutes each week—can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits you get from doing hours of conventional exercise.
The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.