Simon Says: Move Your Legs. And Arms. Tuesday, January 24, 2006; HE03 We have long advocated incorporating activity -- any activity -- into your daily routine to help combat the nasty consequences of sedentary modern living. Now a doctor is taking that line a step further: In his new book, "The No-Sweat Exercise Plan" (McGraw-Hill, 2006), Harvey B. Simon argues that you can get enough exercise to stay healthy without ever breaking a sweat. Simon, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, cites numerous studies showing the surprising benefits of small chunks of moderate activity, and challenges readers to embrace a variety of opportunities to use calories (like taking the stairs instead of the elevator). What makes this different from other exercise books advocating an easy approach is Simon's Harvard pedigree and serious research chops. Also, he has spent much of his career dismissing moderate activity as "too easy to be beneficial": In a 1987 book, he urged readers to adopt an intense aerobic exercise habit, including marathon running. He goaded walkers to run, and ridiculed golfers. But having surveyed recent literature, he says, he is a changed man, one who sings the praises of moderation. "For years data have been coming in that moderate exercise is good for cardiac health, obesity, diabetes and a host of other illnesses," Simon says. "Moderate exercise is not a distant second, in terms of health benefit," to more intense workouts. Being something of an exercise physiology nerd, he coins a term -- cardiometabolic exercise, or CME -- to distinguish various health-creating activities from standard definitions of aerobic exercise. Just about anything that burns calories counts, he says. He assigns a point value to each activity and encourages readers to accumulate at least 150 CME "points" a day, through such simple tasks as walking, raking leaves, cooking, watering plants, even (yes) bowling. You needn't track your points meticulously, as long as you get the activity. Simon makes an important distinction between "exercise for health" (what he is pushing) and "exercise for fitness" -- the higher-intensity cardio and strength training that recreational and serious athletes need. The book includes health and fitness assessments, including a simple calculation for learning your heart attack risk. "People hear the surgeon general talk about walking and then they see someone running by with a heart rate monitor on and they say, 'That guy's getting benefit that I will never be able to get.' And they go back to watching TV. I am not against intense exercise, but it's more than you need for [good] health." The book condenses info on exercise physiology -- how oxygen gets around your body, why bones degenerate, how hard your heart works -- and is straightforward and readable, though at times redundant. The no-sweat program has its own pyramid, founded on nutrition, followed by CME activities and topped with strength, flexibility and balance training. The exercises provided are simple and accessible. The book includes sections for those with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and for people who want to go beyond exercising for basic health. Simon notes that Americans spend an average of 170 minutes per day watching television (yikes!). "I put that in there for people who think they lack the time to exercise. People should build physical activity into the fabric of daily life so they don't have to set aside time" to work out, he says. -- John Briley © 2006 The Washington Post Company (The Washington Post
Why Your New Year's Resolution to Get Healthier May Be Pretty Easy to Keep by Tara Parker-Pope January 3, 2006; Page D1 Promising to exercise for better health is usually the hardest New Year's resolution to keep. But a growing body of research shows that it should be one of the easiest. Numerous studies now show that you don't always have to break a sweat to reap the most significant health benefits of exercise. While national health guidelines often suggest 30 to 60 minutes a day of exercise, it appears to take far less effort than that to make a dramatic improvement in your health. The biggest health benefits come from just a small increase in activity: Five hours of housework a week, a nine-minute walk a day, or four hours of weekend golf all translate into dramatic reductions in risk for heart attacks and other health problems. Most people think they need to take a daily jog or hit the gym several times a week to boost health. That's because for years the medical community has preached the need for vigorous aerobic activity and athletic fitness. Those are laudable goals with clear benefits, including improved muscle tone, energy levels and psychological well-being. But they are also tough goals, so people often fail and end up doing nothing. Now many doctors are trying to undo the wrong impression caused by the aerobics movement. They are trying to redefine how much exercise is really enough, and encourage patients to think about achieving "health fitness" rather than athletic fitness. "I regret preaching the doctrine of aerobics as I did for so many years," says Harvey B. Simon, the Harvard Medical School professor whose 1987 book "The Athlete Within" urged readers to expend at least 2,000 calories a week exercising -- that's about three to six hours a week of aerobic effort, depending on the activity. He now believes it takes only about half that amount to improve health. "We need a new way to think about exercise," he says. This doesn't mean people who like to exercise several hours a week shouldn't continue. And people in high-risk categories, such as those with a strong family history of heart disease, might be advised to adopt a more vigorous exercise program. But a closer look at the data from various exercise studies shows that for most of us, the biggest gains in health come with far less effort. So what's the magic number? In June 2001, researchers reviewed 44 exercise studies and found that most of the benefits of exercise kick in with the first 1,000 calories of increased activity each week, which reduced the risk of dying during the various study periods by 20% to 30%, according to the Journal of Medical Science and Exercise. To burn 1,000 calories a week or about 145 calories a day, most people need to increase their daily activity only slightly. A 180-pound person could burn off about 100 calories during 20 minutes of housework. Add in a 10-minute walk (50 calories) or taking the stairs four times a day (100 calories) and you've exceeded your daily goal. Search the Web for an exercise calculator like the one found at www.caloriecontrol.org/exercalc.html2. Other studies have supported the notion that a little activity goes a long way. This month, the medical journal Diabetes Care showed that moderate exercise added nearly 2½ years to life expectancy for patients, compared with those who were sedentary. A 2004 report by Swedish researchers showed that older adults who exercised only once a week were 40% less likely to die during the 12-year study period than those who did nothing. A 1999 study of more than 800 residents of Kings County, Wash., showed dramatic health benefits among those who gardened or walked for just an hour a week. Although that adds up to only about 400 to 500 calories, the increased activity translated into about a 70% lower risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest. Much of what we know about moderate exercise and health comes from observational studies following groups of people for long periods of time. But the Cooper Institute -- whose founder Kenneth Cooper coined the term "aerobics" -- has just finished a five-year study of 460 postmenopausal women who were assigned to 225, 150 or just 75 minutes of exercise a week -- that's as little as 15 minutes five times a week. The results of the trial aren't yet available, but the study is part of a new push by scientists to determine what "dose" of exercise offers the biggest gains in health. And there's a growing belief that it's less than the standard 30-minutes-a-day recommendation. "All the evidence shows it doesn't take that much," says Tim Church, medical director for the Cooper Institute in Dallas. The problem is convincing patients that a little extra effort really does go a long way. Doctors say most people have gotten the message that it's better to take the stairs or park farther away as a way to boost activity during the day. But most patients don't really believe it works. "The average person still thinks you have to train for a marathon," Dr. Church says. One concern is that there isn't a scientific vocabulary to describe this "other" type of exercise. Aerobic exercise involves pushing your heart rate to 70% to 85% of its maximum, and keeping it there for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. That sounds far more impressive than a daily exercise plan that consists of a morning stretch, taking the stairs at work, cleaning the house and walking the dog at the end of the day. In his latest book, "The No Sweat Exercise Plan," Dr. Simon has dubbed these lower-intensity activities as "cardiometabolic" exercise. He hopes the more scientific-sounding name will add credibility to the notion that moderate physical activity really does improve your health. "Somebody can get the health benefits of exercise without ever buying a pair of sneakers," Dr. Simon says. (The Wall Street Journal
"Insufficient exercise plays an important role in four of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., including heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. And it may also contribute to the eighth leading killer, Alzheimer's disease." This is according to Simon (medicine, Harvard Medical Sch.; The Harvard Medical School Guide to Men's Health ), whose compelling wellness book teaches those ready to start an exercise and diet program how to do it and how to measure their progress. He offers in-depth explanations of why one should exercise, which exercises develop the cardiovascular system, why one should include weightlifting in a weekly routine, and why exercise becomes essential as one grows older. A chapter titled "Exercise Therapy: Good for What Ails You" explains why exercise leads to better outcomes for several conditions, among them stress, hypertension, diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and chronic fatigue. A discussion of nutrition and preventive medical care emphasizes what you should eat - not what you shouldn't . Excellent graphics are provided throughout, particularly in "20 Guidelines for Healthful and Enjoyable Eating" and "Preventive Medical Services for Healthy Adults." Highly recommended for undergraduate, public health, public, and consumer health libraries. - Howard Fuller, Stanford Health Lib., Palo Alto, CA (Library Journal
No Stress. No Strain. No Sweat.
Forget Pilates machines, gym memberships, and marathons. To get the health benefits of exercise, you need only to ramp up your everyday activities. In The No Sweat Exercise Plan, Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Harvey B. Simon, M.D., shows you how to fit fitness into your daily routine--without breaking a sweat.
Dr. Simon's motto is "No pain, big gains." His simple program is guaranteed to help you:
- Shed pounds you don't want and inches you don't need
- Increase your energy and stamina
- Decrease stress, avoid mood swings, and beat depression
- Reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer
- Look and feel younger and add years to your life
With Dr. Simon's No Sweat Exercise Pyramids you can create a personalized fitness plan to fit your needs . . . and your busy schedule.
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