Exercise really is one of the best things you can do in your life.
It’s kind of like the Frank’s RedHot sauce of condiments. Remember their tagline?
Or if you’re more of a movie buff than a chef maybe Windex is a better example.
Because we’re aware of many of the benefits of exercise including increased/improved:
bone & joint health
And this is really preaching to the choir because as a reader of this blog, and possibly subscriber of our newsletter, you already live an active life for the reasons listed above.
But did you consider one of your reasons for increased fitness to be so that you would have improved motor skills?
In other words, is there a physical task you were looking to improve and thought the way you would get better would be by increasing your fitness?
If you hadn’t thought that way don’t worry you’re not alone. Not many people had. And new research published this months is among the first evidence to show this.
The study looked at how running fitness improved motor learning. More specifically the researchers wanted to know what was the mechanism that allowed for better movement.
Here’s what they did.
The had mice run daily on a wheel for a week. And then they measured how the mice on the time to cross a balance beam and their performance on a rotarod measuring speed when they fell off. Below are the results comparing the the mice that ran versus the controls that didn’t.
We can see that the mice that ran were able to cross the beam in less time and attain higher speeds when they fell off the rotarod.
So what do they believe accounted for this improvement in motor skill?
There is a switching in neurotransmitters that occurs in the neurons. Specifically there is a switching from acetylcholine (ACh) to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). With one week of running on the treadmill researchers noticed a switching of these neurotransmitters in the caudal pedunculopontine nucleus (cPPN). When researchers blocked this switching of neurotransmitters no improvement in motor learning was observed.
The effects from one week of running lasted for 2 weeks but were lost by the fourth week.
If you’re someone with two left feet on the dance floor or want to try a new sport this year improve your fitness first to enhance your motor learning.
See the citation below if you’d like to check out the study for yourself.
Li, H. Q., & Spitzer, N. C. (2020). Exercise enhances motor skill learning by neurotransmitter switching in the adult midbrain. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-13.
The coronavirus has resulted in sports teams and leagues being cancelled until safe to resume. With athletes not practicing or competing with their teams, not to mention schooling from home, this has resulted in a lot of free time for athletes. Many are looking to use this downtime to fill their schedules and establish a routine. A great way to do this is with strength and conditioning sessions.
There’s only one problem…
Swimming is not like any other sports. And they need to train differently during this pandemic than soccer, basketball, hockey or football players.
Below are 9 Reasons Swimmers Should Training Differently During COVID-19.
#1 – All Volume Is Not Created Equal – Do you know any swimmers? I don’t mean recreational swimmers or even triathletes for that matter. I mean school-age kids that swim year-round with a club. If not, would you believe they can spend between 15-20 hours per week training in the pool? This includes five evenings per week for 2 hours each plus anywhere from 3-6 days week in the morning as well. Basically this is a ton of volume.
To put this in perspective consider that the 200 m in track & field and the 50 m free in swimming will both take about 20 s. Usain Bolt holds the men’s world record at 19.30 and it’s 20.91 for the 50 m free held by Cesar Cielo.
So swimming the same amount of time as sprinting covers 1/4 of the distance i.e. 50 m versus 200 m. There is no way a runner would ever expect to train the same volume with running that a swimmer does in the pool. For example, if a swimmer put in 75 km of volume in a week (very high) the equivalent volume would 300 km for a runner which is basically running a marathon everyday.
As swimmers look to add more s&c work to their training schedule they should do so slowly as the volume they are used to in the pool does not translate to land.
#2 – Water Is Not the Same As Air – When swimmers move from the pool to dryland for training there needs to be some consideration and awareness of the different medium they are training. Swimmers are used to moving through and overcoming the pressure of water as a resistance. This can be beneficial as it provides resistance and support. As we overcome the resistance we adapt and get stronger. And since our bodies are supported in water there is minimal stress on joints making it a great activity for those with orthopedic issues i.e. swimming is great for those with low back pain.
As swimmers move from the pool to land there should be some consideration of the difference of overcoming water as a resistance compared to air and how this influences exercise selection, tempo of movement and overcoming resistance.
#3 – Horizontal Versus Vertical – When we were kids growing up we trained at a pool in Rutland called the Athans Aquatic Centre. This was a short course (25 m) pool that was shallow enough you could touch at any point along the bottom. When we would finish practice our coach would ask us to swim a cool down and we would walk to the end of the pool and back. Besides standing at the end of the pool between sets waiting for instruction, this would be the only time we would be vertical during practice.
One thing all four strokes have in common is that the body is horizontally positioned. This is the opposite of almost all other sports unless you compete in powerlifting and only do the bench press.
Why does this matter?
Well, with all other sports we are upright and with many this involves movements such as a running, jumping, cutting, stopping and potentially contact or even collisions with an opponent. In swimming if you ever find yourself in a collision with another swimmer someone has really gone wrong.
In terms of training this means swimmers are not exposed to the same axial loading demands as other athletes. Picture a gymnast twirling through the air off the high bar and getting ready to stick her landing for a perfect 10. The gymnast’s load-bearing joints i.e. the feet, ankles, knees, hips and low back have been trained to safely and effectively reduce the forces upon landing. This would most certainly lead to injury if attempted by a swimmer.
As swimmers look to initiate or increase their dryland training in a weight room they should be aware that their joints have not been exposed to the same forces, especially with plyometrics, and should proceed cautiously.
#4 Solo Versus Group Training – In the pool a swimmer can really get in their own head. Once you are face down you don’t hear your coach. You aren’t talking to your teammates. There is no conversation with others at all. In fact, we had one swimmer that trained with us that I believe used her s&c sessions to get out everything she had to say but couldn’t during practice.
Anyways, a weight-room environment will be unique for swimmers. They may not be used to a coach’s feedback and cueing. They not be expecting someone to be talking to them as they perform a lift. And they may not be used to the banter and chatter that can be common place among athletes of other sports. This is important to know as it dictates how a coach may approach and lead a s&c session with a team of swimmers versus athletes of another sport.
One great thing however about training swimmers is that they are used to doing the work themselves. Their sport is all on them. They show up for practice or they don’t. They put in the training or they don’t. Whether they slack off or train hard is up to them and the results that accompany their efforts. When swimmers come in the gym they tend to get to work and take the training seriously. They are self-motivated and hold themselves accountable.
#5 – Plantar Versus Dorsiflexed – When it comes to the ankle joint, swimmers are unique from other sports. With land-based athletes, team or track, we typically coach a dorsiflexed ankle position. This simply means the toes are towards the shin as opposed to the toes pointed away. The reason for this is that it sets the joint to take advantage of the stretch-shortening-cycle (ssc) of a plyometric action.
With swimming we don’t typically coach dorsiflexion too much. Part of this has to do with the sport being water based and horizontally positioned and doesn’t involve much running or jumping. Starts and turns do factor into this and we program accordingly based on which events the swimmers competes in as well as their unique needs.
But for the most part a dorsiflexed ankle is not advantageous for swimming. For one it doesn’t allow for a natural finish to the flutter or dolphin kick. And secondly a dorsiflexed ankle creates more drag in the water than a plantar flexed foot.
#6 – A Variety of Energy Systems – Going back to the track and field example used above, have you ever known a runner? If so, what was their best event? Were they a sprinter competing in the 100 m and relays? Did they compete in the middle distance events of the 1500 m and 3000 m? Or were they in distance racing in 10 k and marathons?
Whichever event(s) they competed in, they most likely stuck to those events. In other words you wouldn’t hear the track athlete tell you their meet schedule as racing the 100 m on Friday, the 1500 m on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. But this is what swimmers do. In a variety of strokes.
Typically when we work with swimmers at our gym we don’t put much emphasis on their aerobic energy system development. They get enough of this in the pool and the sport itself would be the best way to improve fitness in that sport.
Instead what you should strive to do is focus on the energy systems that are under-developed in the pool and consider the age of the athlete. Following LTAD guidelines, the Fundamental Stage can be a great time to introduce speed training. As the athlete ages and matures we look at developing the aerobic battery or stamina as it is referred to in the guidelines. Just be aware that if you include sprints and plyometrics in your programs you ease these in slowly and allow time for tissues to adapt and mechanics to be learned.
#7 – Swimming Is All Concentric – Can you remember back to the time when you first worked out? Do you remember the soreness you felt after that first intense bench press session? Or have you ever done enough biceps curls that it was hard to extend the elbows the following day?
If so, you’re familiar with DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Now I’m not saying you can’t feel it after an intense swim practice but it’s not the same as resistance training in the gym. And part of this has to do with the muscle actions involved.
With muscular contractions we can distinguish them based on whether the muscle shortens, lengthens or stays the same length. These are also referred to as concentric, eccentric and isometric contractions. When we have to reduce an external force the contraction will be eccentric as the tissue lengthens to absorb the force i.e. lowering a weight during the bench press or coming down from a jump in volleyball. In swimming we don’t have to account for eccentric loading. All of the force generated is concentric. Don’t get me wrong in that there is still the resistance of the water but it passive until we actively push, pull or kick against it.
What this means is the swimmers need to ease into lifting. The eccentric strength that is naturally developed through sports that involve absorbing collisions, landings, stoppings and cuttings is underdeveloped with swimmers. And this is where injuries typically happen. So in order to be safe and effective focus on learning movements and developing eccentric strength.
#8 – Swimming Is Mostly Upper Body – Aside from the start, turns and breaststroke, swimming is an upper body propulsive sport. And you’ll only do one start in a race and may not swim breaststroke lessening the contribution of the lower body to speed in the pool.
Compare this to many of the exercises included in thoughtful strength & conditioning programs. The list includes squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, Nordic hamstrings, hip thrusts and more. Does this mean these lifts are bad for swimmers? Should they be avoided?
Definitely not. Lower body training is a great way to increase speed and power in the pool. In the case of a 50 m sprint the dive can be worth up to 30% of the race. And with properly developed elastic power a swimmer can come off the wall on turns further and faster than a competitor. As well, as most of the volume in the pool comes from upper body propulsion, lower body training can be a great way to stimulate the system to grow and get stronger without adding stress to the upper body.
#9 – The Breathing Is Different – You could say breathing is the most important part of swimming. Without it it’s game over.
But how many swimmers consider how they breath? Sure they may be able to tell you which side they breath on but can they describe how they breath? The way I remember it was a quick puff out to clear water from around the mouth before a quick inhale. Now you’ve got to remember I was an 80’s swimmer and so maybe swimmers today are coached differently as to how they should breath. Because in the gym there are specific times and ways to breath.
Our goal with breathing in the gym is to maintain intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), to exchange gas, (carbon dioxide out, oxygen in), to maintain pace and to provide an assist through sticking points. The first point, IAP, is key to ensure we perform a lift safely.
Imagine taking in a big belly breath and setting your abs. This helps us lock down and brace to protect the various structures such as the low back. Another way to think about this to imagine tensing your stomach before some one punches you in the gut.
As you perform a rep you will want to slowly release your air. Think of squeaking air out of a balloon rather than letting the balloon just fly off around the round. When you slowly release the air from the balloon the pressure in the balloon is maintained. If the balloon is let go the air rushes out all at once and loses pressure quickly.
It might seem counter-intuitive to spend time teaching swimmers how to breath in the gym but it is different from how it happens in the pool. A little coaching here at the start makes lifts safer and leads to better results.
Could You Benefit From Swimming Specific Strength & Conditioning?
Swimmers can benefit hugely from strength & conditioning. However as you can see from above there are a number of factors to keep in mind that make training swimmers different from other athletes.
If you would like some help with s&c for swimming reach and I will offer you two weeks of programming and coaching on me. Send an email to athletetraining (at) shaw (dot) ca and we’ll be in touch to see if working together would be a good fit.
Let me start by saying this, I love training older populations. Why? For a number of reasons.
I can always learn something each
session and gain valuable life information.
The effects on quality of life as
a result from resistance training can be dramatic.
The ladder is why I coach. Coaching provides me the vehicle to affect
positive change and impact for a high number of individuals. From a career standpoint there is nothing
better than to see the impact on quality of life, from evidence based
resistance training, on my older
Recently I have read two solid research studies
on how older populations respond to resistance training and I thought I would
summarize and share what I have learned so you can better understand how strong
of an impact resistance training can have for you as you age.
Paper # 1
The authors of this paper
were looking to see the prevalence of unresponsiveness in older men and women
to create more lean muscle mass, muscle fibre size, strength, and physical
function following a resistance training program.
Who was in this study?
Participants included healthy older men and women
who were greater than 65 years old. The
participants had to be considered healthy and independent. They also had to
have no history of structured exercise training for at least 5 years.
What did the resistance training program look like?
Participants took part in a 12 and 24 week training program. 110 individuals took part in the 12 week program while 85 of those people continued into the 24 week program. The program consisted of 3 supervised training days a week that were supervised by professionals. This program started with higher volume (reps and sets) and less intensity (how much weight you’re lifting as a percent of your 1 rep max for a given exercise), and progressed toward lower volumes and higher intensities as the program went on.
What measurables did
they look at?
Participants were tested before the program, at
the end of 12 weeks, and at the end of 24 weeks. The participants tested for the following.
Strength via 1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension
Lean Body Mass (weight of muscles and other lean tissues in the body)
Muscle Fibre Size in type 1 (slow twitch) and type 2 (fast twitch)
Physical Function via chair rise time (how efficient can you get in and out of a chair. In my opinion this is the most important measure as it is a good indicator of impact on daily living). Participants had a number of reps to achieve for time. Participants increased in physical function if time went down.
What were some of the
After 12 weeks
There was a significant increase in lean body mass of 0.9 kg. Yes, that means in just 12 weeks the mean increase among the participants was 2 pounds of muscle!
1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension had a mean increase of 33 kg and 20 kg, respectfully, from initial testing.
Chair-rise time dropped a mean 1.3 seconds from initial testing.
After 24 weeks
There was a mean increase of lean body mass of 1.1 kg.
1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension had a mean increase of 50 kg and 29 kg, respectfully, from initial testing. I don’t know about you……but I consider that a huge deal.
Chair-rise time dropped a mean 2.3 seconds from initial testing.
Objectives: Similar to paper 1, this paper also looked at the prevalence of non
responders in older populations, with a few main differences. The study was
only women and compared the results of two different types of resistance
training programs, one being higher volume and one being lower volume.
Who was in this study? The study consisted of 376 women. In order to be eligible to participate in the study, the women had to be 60 or older, healthy with no conditions that could affect outcomes (attested to by physician), and had not participated in resistance training for at least a year.
What did the resistance training program look like?
The women were divided up into two training
program groups, a low volume and a high volume group. The participants trained
2 times per week for 12 weeks. 1 session was lower body and 1 session was upper
body. There was a minimum 48 hours between
bouts. Sessions were monitored by 1 supervisor
for every 5 participants.
What measurables did
they look at?
Participants went through a series of tests pre
and post program testing a range of different qualities.
Body Mass in kg
Waist circumference in cm
Strength via 1 RM bench press and 1 RM leg press
Physical function via chair stand test. This test is simply how many times you can get in and out of a chair in 30 seconds.
Muscular endurance via 30- second bicep curl test. This test measures how many times the participant could curl a 5 kg weight in 30 seconds.
Endurance via 6 minute walk test for distance.
Flexibility via Sit and Reach test measured in cm. Sitting on the floor with your legs straight and feet pressed against a box, how far can you push the slider? (think about sitting with legs straight and together and trying to touch your toes.)
What were some of the
Both groups significantly decreased their waist circumference and there was no major difference between low and high volume groups. It is worth noting that a decrease of at least 4 cm was seen in 242 participants (this is 64% of the study subjects!), and was almost evenly divided between the two groups. Why is this important besides your pants fitting better? In other literature, a decrease of 4 cm has been linked to an increased life expectancy of 5 years! (3)
1 RM Leg Press ( lower body strength)
High volume initial was mean 13.31 kg post was 40.24 kg
Low Volume initial was mean 12.82 kg post was 38.12 kg
1 RM Bench Press ( upper body strength)
High volume initial was mean 9.97 kg post was 21.01 kg
Low volume initial was mean 10.14 kg post was 20.79 kg
Sit and Reach (flexibility)
High volume initial was mean 18.17 cm post was 28.07 cm
Low Volume initial was mean 18.00 cm post was 28.96 cm
30 second chair stand
High volume initial was mean 9.63
reps, post was 20.69 reps.
Low Volume initial was mean 9.44
reps, post was 20.74 reps.
What are my big takeaways from
these two papers?
There are no non-responders to resistance training in older populations.
Remember, all the numbers I mentioned in the results section is the average across all the participants. Each person had different levels of responsiveness to resistance training. There was a large number of variability in results between participants BUT every person improved at least one quality significantly in both studies. The most interesting was in paper number 1, there was 1 subject who actually decreased from their initial tests in 1 RM strength, lean body mass, and fibre size but had BY FAR the most improvement in chair rise time. The take away from that nugget? Even if you are not seeing improvements in the weight room or scale, you can still be significantly improving your life and that’s what it is all about!
More does not always mean better.
From paper #2 we can see that there are significant changes in the lower volume group as well as the higher volume group and there was not much difference between the two either. These individuals were training only twice a week and saw marked changes across a number of qualities. If your busy schedule has been stopping you from starting, let this be you sign to get started! I believe we can all carve out 2-3 hours a week to train. If all you can commit to is a couple of days a week don’t sweat it, you’re going to improve and work towards your goals.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself.
All of these participants were performing some decent intensity strength training sessions. As an example, in paper 2 all participants were training each set until ‘momentary failure’. Meaning they were using loads that by the end of the set they would not have been able to do more reps with good technique. Note, this is different than failing on each set, before someone usually fails it means there were probably some technical breakdowns a few reps before (this is my opinion, not a reference).
Strength training is a great option for
In paper 2 the absolute changes for the sit and reach test were incredible. Direct stretching was not included in the participants program which means that this was most likely a result of getting stronger! This makes sense when you think about it. I want you to imagine a bridge with no support in the middle. If we make that bridge longer, the weaker the middle will get, and might collapse in the middle. Well, if we think of a muscle in the same context, if a muscle is weak and lacks enough strength the best option would be to tighten and make itself shorter increasing its mechanical advantage. If we get those muscles stronger, your muscle will feel more comfortable resting at longer lengths which will mean more range of motion. This is why I opt for strengthening as a better option for gaining more range of motion rather than just static stretching alone.
We’re all aging, and I don’t know about you, but I want to age with a high quality of life. If this sounds like you, resistance training is a powerful way to keep or even regain some quality of life as you age. I hope you have received value from reading this and if you did please share this with someone you know who can benefit from this as well! Take care, train hard and train safe.
1. Churchward-Venne TA, Tieland M, Verdijk LB, Leenders M, Dirks ML and de Groot LC. There Are No Nonresponders to Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Older Men and Women. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015 May 1;16(5):400-11.
2. Barbalho, M. D. S. M., Gentil, P., Izquierdo, M., Fisher, J., Steele, J., & Raiol, R. D. A. (2017). There are no no-responders to low or high resistance training volumes among older women. Experimental Gerontology, 99, 18–26. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2017.09.003
3. Cerhan JR, Moore SC, Jacobs EJ, Kitahara CM, Rosenberg PS and Adami HO and. A pooled analysis of waist circumference and mortality in 650,000 adults. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Mar;89(3):335-45.
Your gym is closed. You need to keep distance from every one else. You might even be self-quarantined.
You can’t access your coach. You don’t have a home gym set up. And if you’re not an athlete what’s the point of working on your performance and fitness anyway?
Doesn’t really sound like the prescription to improving your fitness and performance?
But it could be.
Below are 10 reasons you’ll come out of COVID-19 fitter than before this all started.
1. Fitter relative to everyone else.
Truth is we compare ourselves to others. Good or bad, it happens. We go on a hike with friends and family and notice we’re the only ones huffing and puffing while wishing there were more stops for selfies i.e. rest and water breaks.
You go on a beach vacation and you notice who goes to the pool and who avoids it. And of those that venture into the water who is all wrapped up and who ditches the cover ups and gets right in.
Whatever the situation, we measure our efforts and progress relative to those around us. And guess what? Something like that doesn’t change during a pandemic. For athletes seasons have been cancelled. Teams have been disbanded. And to prevent gatherings of larger groups there are no practices or training sessions. Most are in a holding pattern waiting until things return to normal.
And while most are doing nothing some are doing something. And if it something isn’t a lot or as much as you normally do it’s more than your competitor that is binge watching Tiger King and already finished the new season of Ozark.
Small, frequent and steady progress always leads to improvement compared to massive training sessions that only happen once in a while. If you are young athlete this is a great opportunity to create some separation and improve while your opponent sits idle.
2. You’ve got the time.
Time is one of the biggest excuses we use to avoid exercising. And during non-pandemic times this is an excuse. But now there’s no reason to not find the time. Here’s why.
First of all, look at all the time that’s freed up in your day. You aren’t stuck in traffic. You don’t loop a building looking for parking. You aren’t commuting going from one appointment to another. You probably don’t need to do as much laundry as normal. For those that can’t leave the house grocery shops have become simply texting a list to a friend. And all of the events are your calendar are cancelled whether this was playing in a rec sports league, going to a concert or play, attending church or anything else.
So let’s agree you’ve got the time.
But secondly it doesn’t take that much time. Sometimes we think ‘I’ve only got 20 minutes, what’s the point?’ 20 minutes of intense exercise done daily will lead to results. Plus, in a regular gym setting there are opportunities to chat at the water fountain. Or to hang out and talk between sets. Or maybe you’re waiting on your favourite piece of equipment to get started. All of sudden these bottlenecks and distractions evaporate.
It doesn’t take that much time and you’ve got enough.
3. You will eat better.
Now is a great time to improve your nutrition. Not only is there a great chance the whole family can eat dinner together but you should see improvements with your nutrition.
This may be because you’re running low on supplies and are finding novel ways to make meals. Or it could be because someone else is doing the shopping for you. If that’s the case you’re less likely to impulse shop. You can’t taste all the samples. You probably don’t include the pillow case of potato chips in the grocery list for your delivery person. And if your list gets misinterpreted you’ll end up trying new foods you otherwise wouldn’t consider. Lastly, being stuck at home means you’re probably making more of your own meals. This way you can control the quality and quantity of what you eat.
4. You will get more vitamin D.
Right outside our door is a huge park and trail network. It’s one of my favourite things about living where we do because there’s no need to drive or go anywhere. I cross the street and I’m on trails with wildlife, fresh air, lakes and incredible views.
Now we built our home over 10 years ago. And I’ve been hiking and running those trails ever since. Typically I would be the only one on the trails when I would go out. Now it seems like our whole neighbourhood is heading for the hills. You see families going for hikes. You see people on their mountain bikes. And kids take their dogs up there as well. It has never been busier.
When you think that most people tend to stay in during the winter months and that many are deficient in vitamin D this change in behavior will have an impact on improving health.
5. There is a greater need.
Have there been times in your life when you should have done something, but didn’t. And then eventually it got to a point when you had to do that thing? Maybe it was writing a term paper for a class in college. Or maybe it was filing your taxes just before the deadline.
Whatever the situation, sometimes the pain or potential punishment has to get real enough before we take action. In the cases above this would be failing a course or getting assessed penalties and interest from the government.
Right now we are cooped up. And things are fluid and changing constantly. Nobody has the answers as to when this will end.
At times like these we need exercise more than ever before. We need to establish some sort of routine when school and work is disrupted. We need to get ourselves moving when we are being told to hunker down. And we need a release when the uncertainty of the situation can wear on you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that those with poor health to begin with are even more at risk.
6. Your excuses are gone.
I look at sales as a transaction that solves a problem for someone. I need transportation. You sell cars. To get to an agreeement you need to get past some objections.
Fitness is no different.
‘The gym is always busy’. ‘I forgot my running shoes’. ‘I couldn’t find parking’. ‘My training partner or coach is away’. ‘I’m injured’.
There are lots of excuses we use to avoid exercise. Now many of them don’t exist. If we relied heavily on excuses in the past we’ll probably find new ones.
7. You improve your weak links.
Do you have a favourite restaurant? And if so, do you have a favourite meal there? Do you recommend it to friends when you hear they’re going to your favourite spot?
Of course you do. We all do.
We’re creatures of habit. And we have likes and dislikes.
When it comes to training there are people who love mobility and stretching. This tends to be really bendy people who maybe grew up as figure skaters, dancers, cheerleaders or gymnasts. They love grabbing a mat and spending the hour going through their favorite stretches and yoga-style movements while avoiding the squat rack at all costs.
Or picture the cardio king or queen at the gym. They love doing marathon sessions at the gym on ‘their’ favourite piece of equipment. You know what I mean? It’s not just that they always do the same 60 minutes on the elliptical it’s that they have to use the exact same piece of cardio equipment when they do so.
Now there may not be the same opportunity to access the treadmill or squat rack. And so we need to find new options to stay active. Maybe the bodybuilder spends a little more time working on their mobility and core strength. Maybe the powerlifting gets outside and goes for hike. And maybe the hyper-mobile person tries some at home bodyweight strength training.
The truth is we probably don’t have access to our regular set up of equipment and training partners and we may be forced to try something new that will shore up a weak spot in our fitness.
8. You’ve held yourself accountable.
Eating well, moving your body and getting enough sleep are important components of a healthy lifestyle.
But they mean anything if not applied with intent, frequency and intensity.
And that’s where accountability comes in. Because the best results don’t go to those with the best genetics. And the best chefs don’t eat the best. And the smartest exercise scientists aren’t the cover models for the fitness books.
It’s the people that make sleep, nutrition and exercise a part of their daily ritual. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, they go for a run. It doesn’t matter if they trave for work, they eat healthily. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pandemic going on, they get enough sleep.
Accountabiliy is the lighter fluid that ignites everything and puts in all in motion. Without it we never get started. When we don’t get started there are no actions. And without action there are no results.
Right now a number of people are figuring out how to hold themselves accountable. And they are learning self discipline. And this will lead to great results during the coronavirus.
9. You will get better sleep.
Sometimes when a client comes to us and says they aren’t seeing the results they’d like to see we look a couple of things.
We want to know if the efforts are appropriate and specific to the goal. We want to know that these efforts are consistent and happening frequently enough. We want to know that there is an intensity of effort. And we want know that there is purposeful intent with the training with every set and rep.
If everything looks good on the training side then we want to look at the other side of the ledger. I say ledger because you should think of this as though it were an accounting situation. Do the inputs balance the outputs? In this case one of the inputs would be sleep.
I would guess many people have the opportunity for greater sleep right now. I already discussed above how we should have more time. And this should allow us to get to bed earlier. Plus if we don’t have to drive the kids to school. Or we don’t have to go in to work. If that’s case than there may not be the same need to set an alarm.
We can go to bed earlier. We can sleep until rested. And with setting the clocks ahead a few weeks ago, with getting outside for more vitamin D and with better nutrition we are setting the stage nicely for better sleep.
I’ve also written previously how those who work with a coach get 40% better results than the DIY (do it yourself) crowd.
And if you want to improve your career, it makes sense to look at what the top CEOs and entrepreneurs do. The majority work with a fitness professional on a daily basis.
A few years ago a colleague shared the idea of a coach being something/someone that brings you places. For example, a horse and buggy would serve such a purpose.
But not does a coach bring you places but it does so more efficiently, more safely and more enjoyably. I enjoy following the markets for investing but I still rely on Ben S to handle this area of my life for me. He’s a professional and spends all of his time in this area. I will get better results and mitigate risk by handing the reins (see what I did there?) in this area of my life.
Not only will a coach deliver better results sooner, and more safely, but this is also true when you increase the frequency of coaching appointments. If someone were to work with a coach once every two weeks they would not achieve the same results as if they were working with a coach daily.
Right now our coaches are available on a daily basis. They are coaching our clients every day. On rest days there is a quick call to check-in and see how they’re doing. The coaches are offering more content and classes than ever. You can quickly access more help for stretching, mobility, core training as well as nutritional tips, recipes and recovery strategies.
Once everything returns to normal we’re going to see some clients that achieved some incredible results. The frequency of their training may have improved. They have a higher level of accountability. And their sleep and nutrition are a little better as well. And looking back they will find COVID-19 was a time when they were their fittest.
The coronavirus sure has changed things for everyone.
Students aren’t in school. Businesses are closed. Borders are closed. We’re hearing daily reports on how many new cases there are, how many have died and how bad it could get.
And I understand the value of putting out credible and accurate updates and information. But we can really only take so much bad news. If for no other reason than having a positive mood makes you less likely to get sick. Whether it’s the coronavirus or something else we should all want to stay healthy.
With that in mind I’ve put together the 14 best things to happen as a result of the coronavirus.
1. Better Hygiene – How many times a day do you now wash your hands? Before every meal. After every visit to the bathroom. At the start and end of the day. After training and any other activities during the day.
Add to this the extra disinfectant, hand sanitizer, wipes and cleaning supplies we’re using and we’re definitely making a better attempt to stay cleaner even if only manually. Even before the coronavirus research has shown hand washing helps reduce gastrointestinal illness 31% and respiratory illness 21%. (1)
2. Sincerity – Have you noticed conversations are more real lately? For example, when you call someone and ask how they’re doing they answer. They simply don’t say ‘Good. You?’ Instead they will take the time to fill you in on how things are going and how they’re managing. And as the listener, you actually care and listen. You are able to empathize with what they’re going through and this seems to help both.
3. Renewed Value of Human Contact – Before the current pandemic there may have been days when I would get upwards of 100 high 5s, knuckles or maybe even a hug or 2 per day. I haven’t been in the gym since March 10th. And I’m starting to feel like Tom Brady.
Jokes aside I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that we sure miss connecting in this way at the gym and finishing off a session with a high 5 or fist pound.
4. Renewed Value of Human Gatherings – Have you had to cancel some events? Were there some sporting events on the calendar? Even if it was just for work I’m sure there are some things in your life that didn’t happen to prevent gatherings of large crowds.
For me, there were a couple of conferences that were cancelled and a ski trip with some friends. And on Tuesday we’ll celebrate Evangeline’s 5th birthday while in self-quarantine after returning from the US.
5. Stock Market is On Sale – The drop in the stock market can be viewed in different ways depending on your perspective. If you’re retired and experienced the drops in the market you may not see this as a good thing. And you may not want to spend years waiting for stocks to recover.
But if you’ve got a fairly good risk tolerance and time on your side now is not a bad time to load up on some solid blue chip companies. Definitely don’t take this as investment advice but Disney, Apple and travel companies haven’t been this low in years. For example, last week Warren Buffet bought $45 million in Delta Airlines. In the past year Delta traded at a high of $63.44 per share. Last week it hit a low of $19.10 per share or a drop of 70%! I sure I could chat with Joyce B., Dave T and Ben S. about this!
6. Renewed Appreciation of Travel – We were 2 days into our cruise when it was cancelled. We learned that many of the ports may not let us dock. And the captain decided it was better to cancel and return to Florida than to risk floating at sea until a port allowed you to dock.
Although it was a short trip we had great weather and the food was excellent. We were upgraded to an ocean view room with a balcony and have no regrets at all. Even though we came home early it definitely made us appreciate getting away and having some fun.
7. Reduced Pollution – With the cessation of travel and business the environment has been the big winner of COVID-19. Apparently the air quality in China has improved to such an extent that up to 100,000 lives may be saved. The canal waters in Venice have never been cleaner. And wildlife and ecosystems that had been suffering are being renewed.
8. Home for Dinner – Pre COVID-19 I would be in the habit of working long days. And while I always planned to be home in time for dinner there many times when I’d stay a little later. It might be to connect with a client. It may be to check in with the parent of an athlete. Or we might be busier than expected and I’d hang around to coach.
Since March 9th I haven’t been late for dinner once. It has been great to sit down with the whole family and hear about their days. Vangie leads us in grace and then the girls tell us about the best part of their days. Click the link here if you’d like to read a study on the benefits of eating dinner as a family. (2)
9. Less Time Commuting – Even though we’re isolating for 2 weeks, I’m sure our experience is not that much different than yours. We haven’t been in our vehicles for 10 days. We haven’t been in traffic. We’ve haven’t had to search for a parking spot. We haven’t had to deal with crowds at all. And it’s been great.
10. Memes – You have to admit. There have been some pretty fun COVID-19 memes on the interwebs. This has to be one of my favourites.
11. Respect for the Elderly – Typically we value human life based on what it can produce. And when the production stops by leaving the work force the value can be deemed less. Now at least we’re making a better attempt to show respect for the elderly. Sure I get it. Giving someone early access to Costco is not really the best reward to look forward to but at least it shows we’re trying to keep things safe for the older members of our community.
***Personal challenge…if you have family members north of 70 give them a call. See how they’re doing and if they need anything.***
12. We Are All Neighbours – In the past I used to look at disease, famine, drought etc as problems elsewhere in the world. Sure we would do our part and maybe make a donation or pray for those that were suffering. This is the first time I can remember that something such as this effected the whole world. We are learning from each other. And we are feeling the pain of our ancestral lands as they deal with this. My mom’s family is Italian and it’s devastating to see the impact this has had on Italy.
This quickly reminds us how united we are. It’s not a case of ‘we’ and ‘them’ but one of ‘us’. For a feel good story of a priest who contracted the coronavirus and gave up his ventilator so someone younger could use it, click here.
13. Support Local – As a local business owner it’s been amazing to have so many of our clients continue to support us. And it’s reminded me to invest locally where I can as well. Where in the past I may have gone online to Amazon for books I’ll now look to Mosaic Books. And if there’s training equipment we need for the gym we’ll be going to Flaman or Rocky Mountain Fitness. Hopefully others will do the same and Kelowna will recover more quickly than otherwise.
14. Better Prepared in the Future – Remember when you were a kid and you used to do things you shouldn’t? As long as you didn’t get caught you kept pushing the envelope. At the time we were never grateful we got caught but looking back it was probably the best thing for us.
This is a similar time. We’ve ignored investing in health and medicine. We’ve let cleanliness and hygiene slip. And we haven’t listened when given warnings. Maybe this will get our attention and we’ll be better prepared for the next one.
Everyone will agree that there have been some devastating stories as a result of COVID-14. But there have been some silver linings as discussed above. Hopefully when this pandemic ends we’ll continue to appreciate and value the little things that really matter.
Aiello A, Coulborn RM, Perez V and Larson E. Effect of Hand Hygiene on Infectious Disease Risk in the Community Setting: A Meta Analysis. 2008. Am J Public Health. 98(8): 1372-1381.
Harrison ME, Norris ML, Obeid N, Fu M, Weinstangel H and Sampson M. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. 2015. Can Fam Physician. 61(2):e96-e106.
A few years ago a friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Kleiner, gave me a copy of her book, The Good Mood Diet. Dr. Kleiner is one of the top performance dietitians and wrote this book to explain how we can use food to effect our mood.
Last week a study from the University of Toronto was published showing how the foods we eat is related to our moods. Dr. Kleiner’s book was published in 2007 which means she was talking about this at least 13 years ago. And the now the research is coming out to support what she’s been saying all along.
This study is a part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. CLSA is a long term study of 50,000 Canadian adults and follows them for at least 20 years. A variety of factors are examined with respect to the impact they have on disease and disability as we age.
The U of T study found that individuals who ate fewer than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables daily were 24% more likely to suffer from anxiety. And when the level of obesity increased so did the likelihood of having anxiety. For example, when obesity was over 36% the chance of anxiety increased by over 70%.
The authors speculated that with higher levels of obesity there would be increased levels of inflammation. And other research is indicating there may be a connection to inflammation and anxiety.
Besides how many fruits and vegetables we eat and our level of obesity there are other factors related to anxiety. These factors include the sex of the individual, their income, their immigration status, marital status and other health factors.
About 11%, or 1 in 9, women will suffer from anxiety compared to 7%, or 1 in 15, men. The authors do admit to the limitation of their findings as anxiety was self reported rather than by a physician. If someone hasn’t had a medical professional give them a diagnosis how likely are they to assess themselves as suffering from a condition?
In terms of marital status, single people suffer from anxiety at a rate of 13.9% compared to 7.8% for those with partners. The study didn’t specify if a partner meant a married spouse or something else.
Income has a strong effect on anxiety. 1 in 5, or 20%, of those making less than $20,000 per year have anxiety. This rate is double that of those higher incomes. I remember Seinfeld saying the number one fear for a lot people was public speaking and number two was death. But as it relates to anxiety finances plays a big role as we can be concerned about bills, interest payments and taxes.
The number of health conditions a person lives with has an impact on their level of anxiety. Specifically when individuals have 3 or more health conditions they are 5x more likely to have anxiety. Put another way if someone has low back pain, hypertension and diabetes, or any 3 health conditions, they would have a 16.4% chance of anxiety versus a 3% chance for those with less than 2 health conditions.
As for where you were born, immigrants have a lower chance of suffering from anxiety. To me this makes sense. Canada repeatedly makes lists for being one of the best countries in the world to live in. When immigrants move to Canada they must truly believe they have won the lottery. Although immigrants have to overcome learning a new language, culture and customs there is also the added stress of leaving family behind when starting out in Canada. I guess we should take this as a sign of how good we’ve got it here in the west.
So to minimize your chances of suffering from anxiety make sure to:
Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And don’t just state the goal in this way. Instead think of what you need to do in order to eat 3 servings per day. This might mean including the foods in your shopping list. Or looking at a menu before going out to know what options you have. It might mean packing a lunch with either a fruit or vegetable or both. Think of all the steps that would go into allowing you to eat 3 servings per day rather than simply wishing for it to happen.
Live as lean as possible. As increasing obesity relates to anxiety look to decrease bodyfat. First set up the right mindset for success. Next, get your sleep in order. Eat a low-sugar diet and drink water. Journal your nutrition. And pick exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently.
Find a partner. I’m not much of a match maker so I can’t really provide much value for the bachelors/bachelorettes out there. The only advice I can give is to be the best version of yourself and you’ll most likely be happier and more attractive to another.
Produce something of value. Producers get paid and there is always a market for those that deliver a solution to those in need. Higher levels of education help. But to really get ahead focus more on saving than on earning.
Stay healthy. The more health conditions someone faces the greater their chances of suffering from anxiety. We know previous injury is a top predictor of subsequent injury. And once someone is compromised in one area of their they are more susceptible to more health problems.
Davison, K.M.; Lin, S.L.; Tong, H.; Kobayashi, K.M.; Mora-Almanza, J.G.; Fuller-Thomson, E. 2020. Nutritional Factors, Physical Health and Immigrant Status Are Associated with Anxiety Disorders among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Findings from Baseline Data of The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 17(5): 1493.
Weight loss is an interesting topic these days. For some, bringing up the topics of keto, intermittent fasting, plant-based or some other popular nutritional topic of the day leads to heated discussions.
Unfortunately, some conversations are prefaced with ‘I believe…’ and then whatever nutritional opinion follows. Emotions can become so strong with nutrition that facts and evidence get thrown out the window. And positions can be maintained as though defending a religious perspective.
When discussing weight loss there are two predominant positions popping up on social media. One supposes that creating a caloric deficit is all that matters. You can eat fast food every day as long as you are eating fewer calories than you burn in a day. This ignores what the other position claims is vital, which is the quality of the nutrition.
Maybe you’ve heard the expression ‘as long as it fits your macros’ to justify eating certain foods. By macros we’re referring to the macronutrients i.e. proteins, carbs and fats.
The truth is that both sides are correct. It matters how much you eat. A caloric deficit is needed to achieve weight loss. And the quality of the matters as well. You cannot achieve healthy weight loss with low quality nutrition..
But there’s one more piece to the puzzle that typically tends to get ignored. And that’s the timing of our nutrition.
In other words, would you expect eating the same foods in the same amounts at different times to have an impact on our weight loss efforts?
For example, if you ate a 2070 calorie breakfast, a 600 calorie lunch and a 330 calorie dinner…
Would this have any difference on our fat loss efforts than if we ate the following:
A recent study looked at whether there was a difference in thermogenesis based on whether a larger breakfast or large dinner was eaten.
16 normal weight men ate either a large breakfast equivalent to 69% of daily calories or a small dinner of 11% of daily calories. In the example above I used 3000 calories to represent total daily intake, 11% equaled 330 calories and 69% equaled 2070 calories. The participants of the study ate the big breakfast or big dinner for three days. They then followed the opposite protocol of what they did for the first three days i.e. if they ate a big breakfast in the first part they ate a big dinner in the second part.
So what did they find?
Diet-induced thermogenesis was 2.5 higher following the big breakfast compared to the big dinner.
Does this really matter?
It can definitely make a difference. When we are seeking a weight loss goal we want to know how many calories we expend in a day. The total is a combination of our basal metabolic rate (70%), our non-exercise activity thermogenesis (15%), our exercise (5%) and the foods we eat (10%). The percentages listed are averages and will vary based on age, sex, level of obesity, which foods we eat and more.
The foods we eat can be responsible for 10% of the total energy we burn in a day. If someone is burning 2500 calories per day than the food we eat, digest and metabolize could be responsible for 250 of these calories. This study found that those that ate a bigger breakfast had 2.5 times the diet-induced thermogenesis. In other words, if breakfast normally accounted for 100 calorie burned this could be pushed up to 250 calories. For someone looking to create a 300-400 calorie deficit per day this is huge.
It get better.
When subjects ate a bigger breakfast compared to a small, hypo-caloric meal they were less hungry during the day and had less cravings for sweets. This is very important when seeking a weight loss goal as there will be less temptation to grab a treat or eat more than is needed for health.
One way we’ve thought about this in the past was to eat like a king, then a prince then a pauper in terms of calories. So early in the day eat the bulk of your calories and gradually reduce these as the day progresses. And for the best results make sure to eat the best quality foods you can at each meal.
Richter J. et al. 2020. Twice as High Diet-Induced Thermogenesis After Breakfast vs Dinner on High-Calorie as Well as Low-Calories Meals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 105(3).
What percentage of people wish they more time? A recent article I read mentioned that up to 80% of people wished they had more time.
Does that surprise you? Would you be included in the 80%?
If most people wish they had more time…
And most have goals to be leaner, stronger and healthy…
Than it would make sense to find ways to be as efficient a possible with the little time we have when it comes to training.
With that in mind here are 10 Ways to Make Your Training More Efficient.
1. Put Yourself on the Clock – Are you aware of how long regular tasks take you to do? For example, how long would it take you to unload the dishwasher? If you’re not aware then set the timer on the microwave for 4 minutes and see what happens.
Typically we think things take longer than they really do. And unless we’re on the clock and aware of diminishing time we can adopt a casual pace and stretch things out. Imagine packing for a flight that leaves in 2.5 hours and you need to leave for the airport ASAP. You might be able to pack in 5 minutes and be out the door.
With your training set a count down timer at the start of your workout. If you have 20 minutes set it for 18 and hit ‘start’. Change your settings so your screen doesn’t go blank and you’ll be able to see the time counting down as you train. You’ll have a greater sense of urgency and make the most of your limited time.
2. Get Off Line – Make sure to turn your data and notifications off while you train. Set your phone to silent mode. We’re not talking about doing this for hours on end but just enough time for you to train and not be interrupted.
Consider your own routines…when you have to get something done, how distracted do you become? Does an incoming text message cause you to reach for your phone? Does the ping from FB have you checking to see who it is? After a recent social media post are you checking likes and comments?
Even if this isn’t you, it’s just a god habit to turn off anything that could be trying to get your attention.
3. Make it an Appointment – If you find it hard to make the time for exercise than maybe you should consider making it an appointment in your schedule.
Think about the other things for which you make appointments. How often are dentists appointments not completed? How often do you get interrupted during a doctor’s check up? How many job interviews aren’t completed because something else got in the way?
If you find it difficult to make the time and then complete a training session than maybe put it as a calendar and make it a regular appointment.
4. First Things First – Do you find you’re busier earlier or later in the day? Or do more surprises await you upon rising or come on during the day?
Most people find they get busier as the day goes on. Emails and calls come in. Meetings run long. Other departments or team members need a moment of your time.
There are lots of ways the day can fill up. Not only does training first thing in the morning lessen the change of a distraction derailing your training but you will be more effective with any cerebral or academic tasks that follow.
5. Make Sure You’re Fueled – Have you ever had a day where you haven’t had enough to eat? But you want to stay on top of your training and so you keep your appointment. You may feel weak and lacking motivation. It’s hard to bring the intensity. Rest breaks can get dragged out. And in the end it takes you a fair bit longer to get through the workout.
One way to ensure you can go hard and need minimal rest breaks is to be properly fueled and hydrated. When time is that important make sure you don’t compromise intensity due to a lack of fuel or hydration.
6. Pair Opposing Movements – What gets taxed when you deadlift? You may feel it in the glutes, hamstrings and through the posterior chain. What doesn’t feel it too much on a deadlift? Probably the chest, shoulders and triceps. So when you think of what gets worked and what doesn’t with an exercise this provides clues as to what you can pair for maximal intensity.
With the example above it may make sense to pair a deadlift with a chest press. With this pairing a couple of advantages are presented. The first is that you can train each movement more intensely. The other is that you’ll need less rest to complete all your sets.
Glute Ham Raise 6 reps @ bodyweight (then repeat sequence 3 more times)
When the exercises don’t target the same muscles and movements you can train more intensely withe less rest. When the movements are too similar you’ll have to dial back the intensity, increase the rest or both.
7. Prioritize Weak Links – This one is obvious but gets overlooked. If a chain has a weak link that is where it will break. And the integrity of the chain is limited by the weakest link.
Imagine each of your lifts or movements represents a link in the chain. Your bench is the best in the gym. And you can do as many pull ups as your age in years. But your squats are limited to 135 lbs for a few reps because of some knee pain. Unless that gets addressed it’s harder to see overall improvement.
So how do you figure out your weak links?
The first place to start is movements that hurt. Next, where do you lack range of motion? Can you touch your toes? Can you reach overhead? Can each arm touch the opposite shoulder blade?
If this still isn’t clear send us an email and we’ll figure it out for you.
8. Go During Non-Peak Times – Do you shop at Costco? If so, have ever gone Saturday over the noon hour? It’s insane in there. The first clue should be after circling the parking lot for 15 minutes then hunting high and low for a cart. We would have been better off to go for lunch and maybe come back later, if at all.
Do you do the same thing at the gym? Do you go when it’s busiest? Do you find yourself waiting to use equipment? Do your trips to the fountain and rest breaks between sets become opportunities to catch up with your gym friends?
If this sounds like you the best time to go to the gym, or Costco, would be when no else does. Most gyms are busiest when people aren’t in school or at work. Once school lets out or the work day ends things can get busy in an instant. Try going at an off-peak time so you get more training done with fewer line-ups for equipment or interruptions.
9. Cut Your Time in Half – Remember the example above where I suggested setting the timer on the microwave for 4 minutes and then seeing how far you could get with unloading the dishwasher? Well the next thing to do would be to repeat the experiment but now set the timer for only 2 minutes. See how close you can get to getting the job done.
Two things will happen. One you may actually be able to get the dishwater unloaded in under 2 minutes. Not to brag but my record is 1 minute 47 seconds. The second thing that will happen is that even if the 2 minute timer goes off and you haven’t completed the task you’ll have an incredible pace going. And once you have this quick pace working for you it’s easier to keep going. This will allow you to complete the job in the least amount of time possible.
Do the same thing with your workout. If you believe a workout will take 60 minutes cut this in half. Set a timer for 30 minutes and get started. See what you can get accomplished in half the time. If you get everything done in 30 minutes this tells me you were really slacking the times when you took 60 minutes. And as with the dishwasher example, if you don’t complete the training session in 30 minutes keep going and see how close to 30 minutes you can finish. This can become a challenge to beat your time for your next workout.
10. Don’t Forget Body Weight Training – Sometimes training can take a while because we think we need special equipment including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and more. There can be time to go and get each piece of equipment. There is time to add and remove plates from the bar. As well, if equipment is in short supply we may spend precious time waiting on another to finish with a piece of equipment we need to do our workout.
Instead a great alternative can be to do bodyweight workouts. Imagine sprinting 20 meters and then walking back. This could be followed by three forward broad jumps. After four sets of these you could do some pull ups, some push ups and some get ups. Five rounds of this and you’d be done everything in under 20 minutes. And nothing is more challenging than sprinting, jumping or doing as many pull ups as you can.
Getting a great result in the gym can be enough of a challenge as it is. Make sure a shortage of time doesn’t become something that prevents you from getting the best results possible.
And of yeah, late Friday night is the best time to avoid the lines at Costco.
Do you take supplements? If so, which ones do you take? And why?
A popular one these days is vitamin D. We’ve seen a rise in the number of people taking vitamin D during the winter months when there is either less sunshine or it’s too cold to get out there and get some rays.
So why the need to supplement with vitamin D?
Well this vitamin is required for calcium absorption which plays a role in our bone health. This relationship is seen whenever you drink milk.
According to the Institute of Medicine we should get 600-800 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. Higher levels of 1-2000 IU per day are still deemed safe. As our bodies cannot produced this vitamin it is important that we supplement.
Compounding the challenge of our bodies not being able to make it is the fact that we spend more of our days indoor. And with technology and global markets we don’t operate precisely on a circadian rhythm. Graveyard workers might be asleep during the part of the day when there is an option to get sun.
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher levels of a number of diseases and health concerns including cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, decline in cognitive function and auto-immune disorders. Naturally we have seen an increase in the number of people being prescribed and taking supplemental vitamin D.
So how is this working?
Unfortunately supplemental vitamin D is showing to not be effective. A recent study with over 25,000 subjects lasting 5 years showed no impact on cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Unfortunately it gets worse.
There seems to have been an over-correction with our concern for exposure to the sun. We have known that being further from the sun is associated with higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and mortality. And this is worse during the darker months of winter. This is then made worse as we’ve scared everyone into never getting any exposure to the sun.
What this has resulted in is an increased risk of mortality for sun avoiders compared to sun worshipers. And by increase I’m talking about twice the rate of mortality of the diseases mentioned above.
Should we concerned about skin cancer?
We don’t want to disregard the potential harm that can come from too much sun exposure. And we can be a little smarter about how we think about being in the sun. Be more cautious with younger children especially when it comes to burns at a young age. Pay attention to the UV Index and plan your time in the sun when levels are 3 or lower. And if you’re in the habit of taking vitamin D you don’t need to stop. It will still offer health benefits, it still helps with bone health and most of us are deficient. It’s just that it may not confer the all the additional health benefits we were hoping for.