“The first 20 minutes”.
I don’t know about you, but I love reading books, that crush conventional “wisdom”, based it often seems on nothing, but pure beliefs superstitions, and things like “we’ve always done it this way” or “it makes sense”. Especially books, that have great scientific research behind writing, books written by curious journalists (that guarantees a great story), and especially, if books have practical takeaways in a form of how tos.
The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds
This book has it all — great story-telling, solid research, facts, that crush beliefs and wisdom of ages about exercise and nutrition, healthy lifestyle, that kind of makes sense, but in reality has no ground and doesn’t work or works the exact opposite to what we expect and believe.
I can’t share the whole book here with you, dear reader, but I’ll share the most useful and fascinating.
Exercise can make you sicker.
If you are one of those people, who believe, that more exercise is always better for you — it’s time to re-think you beliefs!
More exercise is not better for health or even fitness performance.
Exercise (intense and challenging) is stress for the body, and when there is more stress, there is more inflammation, there are more free radicals, there are less resources available for different functions in the body, like the function of our immune system. Scientists did experiments on mice and proved that when you exercise intensely your immune system is compromised and your body is less effective at defending itself against viruses (like flu) and it takes longer for you to recover.
So if you exercise a lot with intensity, you need to make sure to take extra care of your immune system with vitamins, proper nutrition and enough rest, otherwise you will get sicker more often than somebody, who doesn’t exercise, and it will take longer for you to recover.
The key is in balance. Exercise enough, but not too much.
Too much exercise will compromise your fitness and strength gains. Adaptation, improvements, gains happen during recovery, not during your workouts. And if there is not enough recovery — all your workouts might be making you sicker and weaker.
How do you know you recover and rest enough?
Do you get injured a lot? Do you feel fatigued often? Are you sore all the time? Does your performance improve? Do you sleep well? Do you have drive and zest for life? How is your sex drive?
Insufficient recovery affects all of these areas negatively.
Exercise is not a solution to against sitting lifestyle.
Have you heard, that sitting is a new smoking yet?
But guess what, if you exercise for an hour a day and sit 7 and more hours with no movement — you are still sedentary and will die prematurely, because of higher risk of heart disease, blood sugar and blood pressure issues, inflammation related issues like arthritis etc.
Exercise is great but micro movements throughout the day are more important for our health and longevity.
As research shows we got to move every 20 minutes or so.
At a desk job? Stand up, walk to the bathroom, go to drink a glass of water, talk to a colleague instead of emails or calls, stretch a bit.
Research shows, that even a couple of hours of sitting still will affect the ability of our body to control blood sugar, burn fat, repair DNA, manage oxidative stress.
Small breaks in your “sitting routine” will help to manage all that better than an hour of exercise with no breaks the rest of the day.
“Human cells are maladapted to an active lifestyle”, says Dr. Booth. In other words we are not designed to be still.
Exercise on an empty stomach is one sure method to start burning more fat.
There is a lot written and said about exercise as a weight loss strategy.
Yes, exercise will not make you thin, if you eat like a horse or eat lots of junk food.
Yes, exercise will not keep you healthy, if done incorrectly or accompanied by junk eating habits — you can exercise and be unfit and sick.
But if you exercise correctly for your goal, if you eat healthy — you have a much better chance to not pack on pounds year after year and stay healthy, vital and youthful, than people who don’t exercise consistently.
One great strategy to increase your fat loss and fat burning as studies show — exercise on an empty stomach, when your body will turn to burning your fats for fuel instead of what you had for breakfast. It seems to help your body be more capable of regulating blood sugar and handle after-effects of bad eating.
So if you decide to eat junk once in a while — you are far better off by working out the next morning instead of breakfast for health and fat burning reasons.
There is no need for you to fuel your workouts, unless you are a competitive athlete doing hell of a lot endurance/strength training first thing in the morning. But that’s the story, that doesn’t concern most of us (there are nutrition strategies for athletes too in the book).
Exercise does so many things for us! In some fashion, that is still not really understood by science.
It makes us healthier, it helps us handle stressors of life better (unless we overdo it), it keeps us younger (keeping our DNA younger), it helps us to use fuel more efficiently and keep off the fat, it makes us smarter making our brain create more neurons, helping them stay alive and multitask, it keeps us robust and anti-fragile as we age, it keeps us happy by elevating levels of happy hormones.
And most of these benefits you can get from simply walking 20 minutes a day and having micro-breaks from sedentary lifestyle, moving, for the rest of your day.
Isn’t 20 minutes of walking a worthy investment in yourself?
Keeping your muscles on and making your bones stronger as you get older requires some weight training (you can use your body weight for that), but it can be as little as 30 minutes a week, and it doesn’t have to be a killer workout.
What you do on top of that — completely optional.
I covered here mostly the exercise subject from the book.
But there is so much more fascinating knowledge to apply and learn!
Some fun facts you’ll love:
Why active stretching designed for a particular training, done as a series of movements imitating your workout or sport, is always better than stretching a particular muscle group in one position.
Why a warm-up should be “just enough” and not like another workout in itself for any athletic gains.
Why taking painkillers to reduce recovery time and inflammation as a result of training is a bad idea, that produces opposite results and more injures.
Why doing massages to increase blood flow, to help remove lactic acid and to recover faster does nothing or the opposite.
Carb-loading prior to competitions and intense workouts is not the best idea, especially for women, and how during-the-workout carbs consumption is a much better strategy. And fructose works better than glucose to fuel athletic performance.
Drinking too much is worse than dehydration for your workouts and health safety.
Why low-fat chocolate milk might be your best recovery drink.
And best athletic performance supplements might be — allowing your body to adapt to training naturally.
There is a lot in the book about a “miracle” of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for fat loss, reducing hunger and becoming your fittest self, breaking through training plateaus.
Weight training — that increases your endurance, strength, bone density, smartness, flexibility, fat loss and weight maintenance success, your youthful years and who knows what else!
This book is one fun useful and practical tool — every chapter ends with how tos and best practices for each of us.
Healthy living trivia
You don’t get healthy and stay healthy.
HEALTH is a DAILY PRACTICE. One bite at a time.
Daily Bite of Health
APPLY ONE ADVICE FROM
And here is an extra Bite of Health.
The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour: How to Control Stress, Upgrade Your Nutrition, and Build the Mindset of a Gladiator
Why you should listen (to learn) –
“You want to change your life fast? Then trade your expectation for appreciation; you’ll have a whole new life.”
Welcome to the second installment of The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour.
After more than 200 conversations with the world’s top performers, you start to spot certain patterns. These are the shared habits, hacks, philosophies, and tools that are the common threads of success, happiness, health, and wealth.
These commonalities were the premise of my most recent book, The New York Times #1 bestseller Tools of Titans — a compilation of my favorite lessons, routines, and tips of many of my guests.
In this particular episode, I’ve gathered some of the best advice from past guests about fitness, nutrition, and wellness. This includes conversations with:
- General Stanley McChrystal about thriving on one meal per day.
- Tony Robbins about morning discipline and routines.
- Wim Hof about consciously controlling his autonomic immune system.
- Dominic D’Agostino about nutritional strategies for peak performers.