My Fitness Advice Summarized in 7 Tips

Thursday Aug 22 | BY |
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Both Kevin and I have noticed that our readers seem to have less interest in fitness than in other topics, like diet. But this puzzles us because fitness is just as important for health as nutrition is, and our readers are interested in natural health.

I think it’s because fitness has been turned into some sort of “elite” pursuit that appeals only to certain people. If I talk about running marathons, only marathon runners or wannabes will read my articles. If I talk about lifting weights, I’ll turn off the people who don’t lift weights.

So I’ve decided to continue my series of articles, summarizing my findings in particular topics; I’ll share with you the most important things I have learned about fitness over the years.

Here we go . . .

1- You can’t do everything at once

Want to get fit? Don’t look for a plan that will give you “overall fitness.” Fitness training is always very specific. Focus on one goal at a time. For example: losing body fat, increasing cardiovascular endurance, improving muscle tone, building muscle, or developing weak areas.

Always start with a goal in mind. Then focus on that goal for a few months with specific exercises. After that, you can choose a different goal. Over time you will achieve a state of “overall fitness.” But it’s difficult to be a marathon runner and weight lifter at the same time if you want to get great results doing both.

2- Remember the acronym FIT

– Frequency
– Intensity
– Time

How often do you exercise? How intense is the exercise? How long is the exercise?

You also want to improve these aspects in that order. Start by exercising more regularly. Then exercise with more intensity, but keep your sessions short. Only extremely fit people can exercise often, with high-intensity, and for longer periods of time. For most people that won’t happen.

As you increase the intensity, shorten the frequency and length of your workouts. You might work out intensely two or three times a week, but not every day. The same goes for the other elements. If you make your workouts really long, reduce the intensity and frequency.

3- Start with 20 minutes a day

If you don’t already exercise regularly, you’ll be happy to hear this. Science has discovered that almost all the health benefits of exercise come from the first minutes. According to Gretchen Reynolds, author of the book The First 20 Minutes, “The health benefits of activity follow, in fact, a breathtakingly steep curve at first.” “Almost all of the mortality reductions are due to the first twenty minutes of exercise,” says Frank Booth, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri and often-cited expert on exercise and health. “There’s a huge drop in mortality rates among people who haven’t been doing any activity and then begin doing some, even if the amount of exercise is quite small.”

Then why do people exercise for more than 20 minutes? The first 20 minutes will provide the most benefits for overall health, including disease prevention. But additional exercise will develop your overall fitness, which has other advantages.

4- The best exercise for you is the one you’re willing to do

When it comes to exercise, I’m pretty boring. I like two things: lifting weights and running. I just don’t see myself learning tennis or another sport. I like hiking, too, but that’s about it.
These are the exercises that give me the most rewards; I enjoyed the process of trying different things and discovering what I love doing the most. Some people try cycling and fall in love with it. So the best exercise for you is the one you’re willing to do!

5- You can exercise in any chunk of time, as long as it’s for 150 minutes a week

You can keep the 20 minutes a day rule, or the 150 minutes a week rule (which averages out to about 20 minutes a day). But you can also break down the weekly requirement in any chunks you like. You could exercise for 20 minutes every day or for 50 minutes three times a week. It’s entirely up to you. Research has shown that the benefits for health are the same.

6- Remember these words: stress and recovery

You can basically summarize the entire science of fitness in two words: stress and recovery. The “stress” is the exercise itself, which must put stress on the body for the neurological systems to react and improve functions through adaptation. Strength training causes stress by tearing down small muscle fibers, which will later be repaired and actually increase in size.

The “recovery” is the time between workouts and includes your nutrition as well. You must feed your body enough nutrients to recover and in the right quantities. That generally means eating when hungry.

If you’re not progressing with exercise, the problem is with one of these two factors: 1) Your exercise is not intense enough or you keep doing the same thing and your body has already adapted (not enough stress) or 2) You don’t take the time to recover properly.

6- Unless you are a serious athlete, forget the nutrition formulas

If you start spending time with fitness trainers, you’ll learn all kinds of formulas; for example, how many carbohydrates you should eat during a run, or how soon you should eat after an exercise session.

For endurance activities (running, cycling, etc.), none of that information matters if you’re just exercising moderately for less than 90 minutes. You don’t need to worry about sports or recovery drinks and so on. But if you’ll be working out for at least two hours, or if you’re training for a marathon, then you will need to take in more fuel and also consume more carbohydrates during your exercise sessions.

7- How to tell if you’re fit to live

According to research from The Cooper Institute, if you’re a man in your 40s and you can run an 8-minute mile, you’re in the highest fitness category. If you’re 30 or younger, running a 7-minute mile will place you in the same fitness category. For women in their 40s, running a 9-minute mile also shows they are quite fit. Middle-aged men who can’t run a 10-minute mile (a 12-minute mile for women) have the highest risk of heart disease later in life. So get out there and see how fast you can run that mile! For my Canadian and international readers, that’s about 1.6 kilometers.

Question of the day: Are you interested in fitness and do you want to learn more about it?

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

44 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Max Tuck says:

    Love it! I am a 50 year old woman who can easily run a 7 minute mile. Where does that put me?

  2. Paula says:

    So, what about a woman in her 70’s?

  3. I rarely agree with anyone in the world of, fitness/wellness! I have to say, almost everything you say, are the things I have been saying for years, and decades now. Your advice is right, and totally on point, and I can say this after more than, 30 years in fitness, and more than 15 In Wellness!

  4. I am 70 and my husband is 74, what is a good test as opposed to running a mile, that will help us determine our fitness level.

    • You have to understand the spirit of the test. Essentially any type of aerobic activity would do the same: stationary bike, etc. I would suggest getting an evaluation from a fitness trainer. They’ll be able to compare your fitness level to the average of your age.

  5. barry foster says:

    My dad never exercised just worked hard and never wad a runner he did walk on his job but not alot and he’ s lived to 82 so far i think all the fitness stuff is a bunch of hooey. Dont getme wrong i tgink its important to move but not to b some sort of exercise nut.

    Probably more important is how happy you are and where you spend eternity

    Barry

    • Dear Barry,

      I understand and honor your viewpoint, but remember that everyone is different. You are not your father nor I mine (he passed at 53 from a HA and stroke. Personally, I am 53 years of age, currently weigh about 245 lbs at 6′ 2″ and can leg press in excess of 1000 lbs for multiple reps. I was very happy when I was diagnosed as “obese” when my body fat measures about 15%. So as far as exercise being ‘hooey’, let’s just say I disagree.
      I love going to the gym for not only the strength training and how it makes my body feel and look, but to interact with the other members (I’m a social critter). One of the main reasons I go to the gym “religiously”, since you mentioned eternity, is because my 28 year old son is my training partner and it is a serious bonding time for us.
      As for where I plan on spending eternity? Just like the Bible said before the counsels of Trent, Nicaea, and Constantinople removed it. I plan on coming back for my next incarnation to learn the lessons I didn’t learn this time. After that, well, we shall see what we shall see….
      Here’s hoping your father (and you) continues with good health for a long, long time!
      However, saying that, I wonder what it was that brought you to this article and drove you to comment?

      In my opinion.

      Blessings to you,
      Rev. Nagi Mato

      • rod666 says:

        I’d like to know who diagnosed you as obese with 15% body fat…….that dies not fall into the obeses category anywhere in my studies.

    • Crimefighter says:

      Barry, don’t ever say it is a bunch of hooey as it may be, most importantly, that he ate very well, didn’t smoke or drink….you really have to eat right, first and foremost!… how do you think some supposedly very fit athletes recently fell down with heart attacks on the football fields (very young people too!)….clogged arteries and it is because of the junk food that they are eating. One can exercise as much as they want, be slim as they want but that is definitely not a gauge to use in determining how healthy and clean their arteries are! – you eat junk and you will get deposits in your arteries and all the exercise in the world would not stop it….. think again!

    • George says:

      Atta boy Barry. Be kind, be happy and know where you’ll be for eternity. I believe this should be the
      #1 focus. Maybe.. just toss in some judicious eating (fruits & veggies and small portions of anything else)
      and a little get up and get moving. I like this “the right exercise is the one you’re willing to do”. Brings a smile to
      my face. A lot of people in pain out there who don’t need to be. Be kind .. even to those who you believe don’t
      deserve it. You CAN change the world. Even if it’s one out of 10… you got one! Myself.. I’m 64 ears old, ran
      multiple marathons up to age 40 (last one) and strive to maintain a healthy keep moving and eat right attitude
      without extremes. I have no idea why I did that. I sucked at it. I was young… needed maturing. Relax. Smile. Don’t believe it’s about the number of years so much as the quality of life. I’m certainly no flower child but you don’t have to be a flower child to see beauty all around us. Really. Take a few minutes right now.. look around… and recognize your blessings. Feels good. Be thankful multiple times a day. It’s all a gift. Too much ugliness and selfishness in the world but their is always so much more beauty .. focus upon that. Do what brings you and those around you joy. Be well.

  6. I turned 65 this year and was amazed how fragile I had become in strength etc. It frightened me–SO I joined a fitness center and have been going 3 days a week for an hour for building up my arms, legs, etc. After 2 months, I feel so much better and I have actually earned a little muscle in my arms and legs. I have much more energy and I also rebound at home. I wish I had started this before. I let it go almost too long–it could have been a real health catastrophe. I always wondered why a woman needed to build her “abs”. If you do not have strong abs you have many stomach problems because it is the abs that hold everything in place and help it to work well. I am just amazed how fearfully and wonderfully we are made and how ignorant we are to our body’s needs and sometimes to the point that our ignorance in health and exercise cause us much pain, suffering and premature death when it could have been prevented in just a few minutes a week. yes, it is sad that many of us forget about keeping in shape through exercise! So DON’T put off exercise until tomorrow because for some reason tomorrow never comes. You just have “today” TO DO. udy

    • joan says:

      Judy: I commend you for moving forward to fitness. It is so important for us women to keep us walking upright, free of unnecessay falls and excited about life. I am 77 and am doing well. I eat mostly vegitarian, do water aerobics twice a week. a class in strength building two times a week and walk the track near my home. As I age, I find that it takes a longer period of time to bounce back. I also enjoy the social contacts – our WA class has a luncheon once a month – we have several fit men in the class. I encourage you to keep eercising for the rest of your life. Makes like so much richer.

  7. TJE says:

    Where did you address the subject, This Fitness Test Can Predict Your Longevity. Article is great but no answer were given except exercise., and more exercise..

    • Cadie says:

      The answer was in the mile run test. How fast can you run a mile. That in part determines your longevity according to this article.

  8. Hi Fredric! 🙂

    I enjoyed the article but you won’t catch me running UNLESS my life LITERALLY depends on it! So, a high impact activity like running the Cooper Institute uses as barometer of fitness/mortality won’t tell me a thing! 🙁

    Can you devise an alternative to it?

    Thanks!

    • Doing 2KM or a rowing machine at the gym, or a stationary bike. Actually like I commented earlier, the best fitness evaluation you can get would be from a trained professional at a gym who will run you through several exercises to test different aspects of fitness.

  9. While I can agree exercise is an important component of health I will still put diet as the most important by a margin. There are other lifestyle factors in clouding mental attitude or state that impact on health.

    Dr. Kenneth Cooper, he of the USAF and Aerobics fame many years ago realized that most people would not need to exercise to athletic standards and he found a much lower level of exercise met cardio vascular needs. Not surprising to me is he discovered that 20 minutes at your individual training heart rate three times a week was sufficient. Add a five minute warmup and five minute warm down and there is the minimum exercise regime.

    There has been an explosion of effort into high stress, high achievement activities often called extreme sports. These can in fact be also extreme in the harm they can do. For good basic overall physical fitness I strongly recommend people avoid competitive sports including those where we compete against ourselves especially with time as the goal – longer, quicker etc.

    Stretching our minds is a major component of health so stretching our minds to know what we are doing with diet and with exercise is as much a part of staying healthy and active as anything else.

  10. Anne says:

    I’m in my 50’s and more and more of my friends seem to be in the late stages of cancer! I know I’m not going to live forever but I thought we’d live well into our 80″s before we had to face our mortality!

  11. jules says:

    I love my long walks, I add in sprints. I’d like to up the intensity a bit but I don’t want to shorten the duration, I love spending the time out in nature….best time of my day

  12. wendy green says:

    i am very interested in fitness. i practice a very dynamic style of yoga 6 days a week, hike, swim and climb. i’m not much into running…hard on knees and ankles, slows me down in yoga…but i do a 10 minute headstand, handstands, backbends and lots and lots of pushups. works for me, i’m in great shape. health is body/mind/spirt. thanks frederic, i enjoy your posts!

  13. Stephen says:

    The major problem with fitness recommendations is their relevance to the individual. Too many recommendations are aimed at cosmetic or performance which have little long term value and so are quickly forgotten. After all, what difference does it make in the long run if one runs an 8 or 10 minute mile or presses X pounds X number of times? What the masses need are body composition guidelines that relate to optimal health and longevity because nearly everyone is sympathetic to a goal of the longest and healthiest life. And yet, with all the money spent on fitness research it is still not possible to answer that question with a great degree of accuracy. Optimal percent body fat and fat free mass for longevity, once known, can be translated into an exercise prescription that has long term value and makes sense for anyone.

  14. Karole C says:

    Hi – I’m 58 yrs. and have a small / middle front belly & a smaller lower belly – My problem is I have yet to find exercise I can do as I have a disk in my lower back that has fused it’s self – I have had this since I was about 35 yrs. I am an active person but can not seem to get rid of my belly – any advice will help as I am starting to get back pain when I am bent over for longer periods of time – snow shoveling is really hard on the back

  15. suzanne says:

    Love exercise. Used to enjoy Kevin’s frequent articles and videos. I couldn’t do just nutrition or exercise without the other. They just go together for me. I am 62, female. My new thing is using Kettlebells right now 2 or 3x a week (10#-15#), sprinting in place on my JumpSport Rebounder for 30sec./90sec. rest 2x a week, daily walks around our great Pacific NW town, and yoga. Want to take up swimming again but not too wild about the chlorine. Bike occasionally on an electric bike – can’t do the hills without the electricity help (lithium battery).

    My diet includes green smoothies every late morning with extra fruit, noon I love my chia/oats/berries/grated apple/nuts/seeds/nut milk/homemade raw milk kefir. Late afternoon is perhaps a salmon salad, rice/quinoa with steamed veg./ poached egg, or a Teff tortilla with beans, avocado, etc. Occasionally a pizza slice, great chocolate, bean chips, or kefir sorbet.

    Would love to read what others are doing for exercise and daily meals.

  16. Manfred says:

    I’m in my 50s and can run a 7-minute mile. I believe that you can’t be really healthy if you’re not fit. Also, being fit allows you to do so many extra things. I always wonder why so many people are willing to put up with staying unfit. I would hate it.

  17. Mary says:

    I’m a 51 year old femail and getting ready for a triathlon 40 mile
    bike, 12 mile kayak and 13.1 mile run. Did it last year too want
    to have a better time this year. Came in 3rd over all for women
    last year. I have 3 sons and 3 grand babies. Exercise is so important
    most jobs are done sitting and life has become so easy everything is
    at the press of a button.
    I have 2 older brothers both diabetics over 300 lbs and sisters over 200
    lbs. there is so much disconnect. Exercise and good diet go hand and
    hand for good health. Run, walk or crawl stop and you rust. I feel great
    and love getting outside to exercise. I’m a retired vet and work at a
    veterans hospital so see people everyday some who over come and
    others that give up I feel responsible to set an example and live a healthy
    life style to help family and others. Thanks for the great articles.

    • Crimefighter says:

      I agree with you whole-heartedly, Mary…… and to think you have obese relatives with illnesses and yet they don’t care for their bodies, amazes me as you are a shining example of healthy eating and living !!!!! – If we treat our bodies right by eating right, it heals itself, day in and day out. If I only knew this when I was young! – cheers to you, gal!

  18. Crimefighter says:

    fitness is not a clear cut way of determining our longevity as what we put in our mouths! – One can be slim, trim and very fit but if he/she eats POORLY, then he/she dies young… when I say poorly, I mean the S.A.D. DIET – corn, flour, refined sugars …. eg – fast foods, canned foods, heavily processed and biologically modified foods, high fructose corn syrup… yes!…all that junk….. all the exercising won’t do hoots for our longevity !

    • The reverse is also possible. One can have clean arteries and eat a perfect diet, but have weak muscles and poor cardiovascular ability, both things that will lead to physical decline with age. Health requires both nutrition AND fitness.

  19. I`m interested in fitness and gaining/keeping bone density. I am osteopenic & wish to train with weights but have a total hip replacement as a result of a fractured ball joint, replaced 1st April 2013. I walk well, but do not wish to overstress the new hip.

    I am 74 years old. I walk my dog for 30 minutes a day (moderate pace, not fast walking.) I am slim and not over weight and quite healthy – no heart or blood pressure problems etc. I now take thyroid medication for low thyroid. vit D3, calcoium 600, magnesium & asprin 100mg.

    Can you recommend suitable weight bearing excercises, how long duration and how many times a week? Have you any further advice re foods?
    Thanks,
    Catherine

    • I hate to say that again but gyms or community centers where exercise classes take place are wonderful places to get advice with exercise. At any age lifting weights is important to maintain muscle mass. When starting out it could be using resistance bands: lots of great DVDs show you how to do it. 1-2 sessions of weight involving resistance of some kind (machines with weights, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, etc.) per your level and abilities, with daily walking would seem to me like a great program for someone in their 70s. Anyone who knows more about fitness, feel free to correct me or add to this.

    • Alexi Bracey says:

      Catherine:

      Look into getting a T-Zone, designed for astronauts who were losing bone density in space, this machine (10 minutes a day) increases muscles strength, builds bone mass density,alleviates osetoporosis, stimulates the lymphatics plus a host of other benefits. http://www.t-zonevibration.com
      I love mine.

  20. Cancer is not a normal human condition. The cancer summit that Kevin organized made it totally clear ill health, cancer included, are not natural human states. They are an abnormal state that demands action to cure or better avoid altogether.

    Change things to improve your health and if exercise is right for you do some but always understand what you are doing and why rather than follow like a sheep on someone else’s plan.

    Knowing what we are doing with diet, exercise and in what environment we live, and the why of it all coupled with a positive approach to life is for me a far more healthy way to be than living in ignorance and fear.

  21. Zyxomma says:

    Well, Frederic, great tips overall, but not all of us here are in our 30s or 40s. I’m a vibrantly healthy 59 year old female, but I only run for flight or pursuit. One test of fitness for someone my age is this: Can you cross your legs to sit on the floor, then get up without using a hand or knee to do so? Health and peace.

    • That sounds like a good test! 🙂 But don’t forget running is only one type of physical activity. Walking is also great, or other exercises that you could call “cardio” like aerobics, cross-training, cycling, stationary bike, rowing, rowing machines, etc. There are so many to choose from. Not mentioning hiking, gardening, etc. But I believe that resistance training is key to stay healthy and strong as we age.

  22. Beth says:

    Excellent article. A lot can be achieved in 20 minutes a day.
    Personally, I’m not a runner, so I have no desire / ambition to run a mile in any length of time. I prefer to gauge my fitness based on what I can do, my stamina and energy.

  23. Mary says:

    Like the article cause is simple and to the point.

  24. What do you suggest for someone who has 3 lung diseases and a enlarged heart to do. As for sure I cannot run.

    • Alexi Bracey says:

      May I suggest a Chi Machine, a Class II Medical device approved by the FDA which alkalizes and oxygenates the body, improves circulation, great for lymphatic drainage and many other benefits. 15 minutes on this machine is equivalent to a 3 mile walk in terms of oxygenation. For more info go to: http://www.chidvd.com/health4wealth
      I use mine for 30 minutes before bedtime, great for sleeping.

  25. I’m 49, and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk a mile on a treadmill. By the end of the mile I am huffing & puffing so much that you would have thought I just did a marathon.

  26. Michael says:

    I would agree that regular exercise & fitness is important. Very important. However, I would strongly disagree that it is “just as important for health as nutrition is.”

    Again, exercising is crucial, but I see countless people killing themselves at the gym daily and not getting results. Why? Due to their disregard to truly evaluate their diet. Many athletes will tell you their success is 80% diet, not vice versa, or even 50/50. Places like True North Health Center and Hippocrates Health Institute would not be getting nearly the same results if they were focusing on nutrition and diet just as much as exercise. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. I myself have healed my body from an autoimmune disease (psoriasis) and no doubt it was mostly diet that helped me detoxify and regenerate the past few years. There were many other factors of course (including exercise), but none nearly as important as nutrition.

    Again, I’m not dismissing exercise at all. I myself do not feel the same without outside running and yoga classes a few times a week. But I just felt the need to voice my opinion on this. I do like all of your articles though! Keep up the good work.

    Namaste

  27. mork says:

    I am totally interested in fitness. I am a fitness instructor! In addition to my weight training (at home, outside or in the gym), I stay fit by using my bicycle to get around and walking instead of sitting in the car. In my opinion, it is not enough do a workout and then sit on your butt all day. Get up and move around, stretch, get your circulation going and go outside for lunch – even if you have an office job!!!

  28. Lani says:

    What if you are a 61 year old woman and you can’t run but you can walk? I can walk a couple of miles but have an arthritic knee that won’t allow running.

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