Friday, November 20, 2009

All Exercise Is Not Equal

As most of you know, I enjoy learning about how the body physiologically responds and adapts to exercise. Exercise can have far-reaching effects on all cells in the body. Muscle cells may add more contractile proteins, the neurons in the motor cortex may develop more ellaborate connections, neurons of the mid-brain may increase Endocannabinoid receptors, or endothelial cells of the blood vessels may increase nitric oxide production. Every cell in the body is affected by exercise.

Exercise is a stress on the body and the body adapts to these stresses in a way to 'manage' the stress better the next time. However, the body adapts to the specific stress it encounters. This is the Specificity principle of exercise training. Run and the capillary density of the quadriceps will increase. Press a heavy kettlebell and the neuromuscular recruitment patterns of the deltoid muscle will improve. Perform low-intensity cardio and your metabolism will increase for the duration of the session, but afterwards your metabolism returns to baseline. Take the same amount of time and perform 10 sets of 10 burpees and your metabolism will remain elevated for hours/ days afterward. Specificity.

Not all exercise is equal, but everyone lumps it altogether. A week doesn't pass without the media reporting the benefits of exercise. Your doctor may ask if you are exercising. A friend may tell you that she lost weight because she started a diet and exercise program. Everyone assumes that all exercise has the similar effect on the body. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Not all exercise is created equal. While all purposeful muscular activity performed to enhance health or performance can be classified as exercise, the stress of different types of training applied to the body varies tremendously. Luckily, scientific research continues to figure out how different types of exercise affects diiferent parts of our bodies.

So, I will end this post with some questions.

What is the best type of training to enhance fat loss?
Increase bone density?
Minimize golf injuries?
Run a 5K faster?
Raise your metabolism?
Build whole body strength?
Live longer?

If you answered walking or using the elliptical trainer you would be wrong.

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