Cardio, Weight Management and Ahisma

How much cardiovascular activity should we be getting each day? This is a question that has vexed the average American for decades. Back in the nineties, the national recommendation for cardiovascular activity was one hour most, if not all, days of the week. This was for disease prevention and optimal health. In the early twenty first century, the recommendation changed. Currently, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend thirty minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity five days a week or vigorous cardiovascular activity for twenty minutes, three days a week ( I was disheartened when the guidelines changed; I felt ACSM and AHA were giving up on the American people’s ability to move. I wondered if because so few people engaged in regular cardiovascular activity, the powers that be decided an hour was too daunting. I know numerous studies have been done and these guidelines are specifically for disease prevention, but I still felt (and feel) like an hour of cardiovascular activity a day should be mandatory in a society that sits as much as we do. A recent study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and discussed in IDEA Fitness Journal, August 2010, addresses this. According to the study, which followed 37,079 women for thirteen years, women who performed one hour of cardiovascular activity daily gained the least amount of weight. Diet was not addressed, but the researchers concluded the current guidelines are not sufficient to prevent weight gain. This was only true for women whose BMI was 25 or below (average weight). The hour does not need to be done all at once; three twenty minute bouts or two thirty minute bouts are sufficient. Exercise needs to be a priority. We all have the time, we just need to do it.
I took a TRX certification class last Sunday. While the course was informative, and the instructor was knowledgeable and encouraging, I found myself pushing a little more than I normally do. This is not a bad thing, except the last exercise of the day (which had absolutely no functional purpose that I could think of; when, in life, are our legs suspended, swinging back and forth while our arms are on the ground in a push up position?) lead to a sore (muscularly fatigued) back. This was my fault; I should have stopped sooner than I did, and I am fully aware that injuries occur when we are tired. In fact, according to Michael Boyle’s book Advances in Functional Training, athletes are more likely to get injured in the preseason and late in the season; the preseason because they are going from moderate activity to a sudden increase in intensity and duration, and late in the season because their bodies are tired. I have seen this with my own clients; people are far more likely to make mistakes at the end of a training session than the beginning due to muscular fatigue. As a result, I always wind the session down with smaller muscle groups, where there is less risk of compensation from the stabilizing muscles. In yoga, there is something called ahisma, which literally means “do no harm.” This is important both from an instructor’s point of view and a student’s. Listen to your body. If it’s tired, stop. If you feel you aren’t performing an exercise correctly, stop. If you are an instructor and you see the quality of the movement is disintegrating, move on to something else. Your body is your temple; there is no point in causing it harm.
Yours in health and wellness,