Exercising inadequately, excessively, or just right ?

photo by John Anders
photo by John Anders

Two recent articles leave this reader confused about the answer to a vital question.

Just three days ago, National Public Radio ran a piece entitled Take A Hike To Do Your Heart And Spirit Good.
This was a study of postmenopausal women who, for six months, came into the lab to walk a treadmill while researchers watched.  The results indicated that “ metabolism of blood sugar” improved in even the control group that walked moderately for just 73 minutes a week. There was no apparent improvement in results in two other control groups, one walking for 136 minutes, and the other for 190 minutes per week.  The premise was that even walking an average of 10 minutes per day produced 95% of the benefits of jogging, without the drawbacks.

But how does that jive with the New York Times article from May 1, 2015, entitled The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life ?

Gretchen Reynold’s NYTimes piece references two very large studies that were detailed in the April 2015 issue of  JAMA Internal Medicine.
The first study followed 14 years of death records of 661,000 middle aged adults. It tracked exercise habits, and grouped the findings from those who did no exercise whatsoever to those who exercised a massive amount (25 hours a week).  For reference, US National health guidelines recommend that we engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.
The results indicated that those who did no exercise at all had the greatest risk of death. The next group did exercise but did not meet the 150 minute per week guideline, and reduced their death risk by 20%.  The group that met the 150 minute US Guidelines went on to reduce their risk by 31%. The “ sweet spot” though, was a group that exercised 450 minutes per week, or just over an hour a day, reducing their death risk by 39%. After that, the investment in exercise duration tanked, with the group exercising 25 hours a week doing no better ( 31% reduction) than the 150 minute per week group.
The second cohort, an Australian study, followed 210,000 individuals, and also tracked death statistics. Three groups were aggregated:  walkers, runners, and those who exercised more intensively.
Moderate walking produced a “ substantial reduction” in death risk.
Reynolds then writes that,  “But if someone engaged in even occasional vigorous exercise, he or she gained a small but not unimportant additional reduction in mortality. Those who spent up to 30 percent of their weekly exercise time in vigorous activities were 9 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who exercised for the same amount of time but always moderately, while those who spent more than 30 percent of their exercise time in strenuous activities gained an extra 13 percent reduction in early mortality, compared with people who never broke much of a sweat. The researchers did not note any increase in mortality,  among those few people completing the largest amounts of intense exercise.”
Klaus Gebel, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, who led the second study says, “Anyone who is physically capable of activity should try to reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity.”

My own personal research is in agreement with the “ sweet spot” in the JAMA study. For me, 150 minutes a week maintains some measure of health, but did not significantly improve my fitness.  For that, I need more activity.
Since January 2015, I’ve been riding my mountain bike in the woods three times a week, and walking the other days. If I take the occasional day off, I make up for it by putting in a few more hours some other day, maintaining my 1 hour per week average.
My weight is now down 15 pounds, and my cholesterol profile and blood pressure have moved into the normal range. I’ve gained these measurable results from exercising moderately to intensively for 420 minutes a week, or a average an hour a day.

So… just enough, not enough or just right ?

What’s working for you?


A Closer Look: Guthook’s Hiking Guides – Trail to Summit

A Closer Look: Guthook’s Hiking Guides – Trail to Summit.  <

The caped crusader- Guthook, about to launch himself up Doubletop Mountain in Baxter State Park
The caped crusader- Guthook, about to launch himself up Doubletop Mountain in Baxter State Park

The high point of my summer last year was our 1 week Baxter Park “thru-hike”, which exposed me to the solitude and features of the Park’s northeast corner.  I also joined Guthook on a few day hikes in Acadia National Park in the late fall, in prep for another Guthook’s Hiking Guide of that world class hiking destination.

Midcoast Maine locals need to know about and use Guthook’s Camden Hills Hiker app.  The app features all the trails in Camden Hills State Park, plus the George’s Highland Path on Ragged Mountain, Bald Mountain, and Spruce Mountain.  The app pulses your moving location on a hiking trail map of the Camden Hills, complete with markers for points of interest in the area. If you want more information about a point of interest, you tap on it to get a description and photos of the area. The app is capable of  working without a cell or internet signal, since you can download all the maps and information before hitting the trail.

Another key feature of Guthook’s apps are the ability of the app to allow the iPhone to serve as a GPS, where you can view if you are on the trail or not.  I used it this past winter when it became impossible for me to find my way along the Sky Blue trail on a dark winter’s night, where the record-breaking snow levels obscured the blue blazes on the trees.

The New Adventure Library | Outside Online

Summer is just one week away. I’m buying a reclining chair to laying out here on Lincolnville Beach, and launch into a few of these recommended adventure books. Heck, I maybe even bring the iPad Mini (in a baggie) and watch one of these videos. I’ve already completed 10 of the 33 in the Library. image via Outside online[/caption.

As a side note, the 2015 Harrell Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Camden International Film Festival’s Opening Night film VIRUNGA directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, who attended the festival right next door in Camden, Maine to present his film.

The New Adventure Library | Outside Online. << Click it !

Day1 Riding Vermont’s Kingdom Trails.


Big day riding my upgraded Santa Cruz Tallboy on Vermont’s Kingdom Trails. I’m here for three days of riding on one of the top ten mountain bike parks in the USA. There are 10 Bubbas in the Woods folks on this inaugural trip for the 2015 season.
We completed 12 miles today after the long ride over from coastal Maine. There is just no easy direct route from Lincolnville to East Burke.
I’m riding a bike that has taken considerable cash to upgrade for this season. My bike is three years old now. I trashed the Rockshox Recon fork that came with the bike and decided to pony up for a more substantial replacement shock, which unfortunately set me back close to $1000. I also needed a new wheel to match the larger diameter axle that paired with the Rockshox Revelation fork that I’m running now.
I also just shelled out $150 for a new rear Shimano SLX disc brake assembly after trashing the Avid caliper that came with the bike. One of the pistons seized as well as fractured.
I also opted to get a dropper post. While I have been content to slide my ass off the back of my saddle and drop my butt down over the rear wheel on the steep and rough downhill segments that I encounter, a dropper post instantly accomplishes that with the click of a handlebar lever. I bought a Gravity Dropper post from a US company from Montana. Another $300.
But today it was all worth it.
The Bubbas are rough on bikes. I’m at the two hundred pound with level, and the trails that we regularly ride are rocky, uneven, and very rough. If these modern bikes are built better and are capable of absorbing the hits and drops on our challenging trails, then many of us are working around our knees, shoulders, and back parts that are wearing out in parallel with our mountain bicycles.