Contributor: Rich Butler, MS, USPTA
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Tackling lifestyle challenges takes time. Part of the Canyon Ranch experience is to allocate 50 minutes of undivided, uninterrupted attention to whatever the topic of health might be for a guest. Often that time is needed to educate and inform the guest about the ‘whats, hows, and whys’ regarding exercise, diet or behaviors related to them. In that process, we use a variety of analogies to improve the likelihood the guest not only understands how to execute the recommendations but also can relate to the reasoning behind that recommendation. You might say that for an individual to employ your idea they have to ‘buy in’…wink, wink. The money analogy works really well.
Stocks are to wealth as aerobic activity is to health. To quote from the website The Motley Fool, “There is no more reliable way to create long-term wealth than the stock market.” Heart disease continues to be the #1 health concern around the world. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week will protect against premature mortality. Don’t complicate your exercise habits. Avoid being too influenced by the commercialized side of fitness and activity. Long before you could walk into a room that had magic crystal waterfalls, rainforest humidity, and an instructor who specializes in H.I.S. (high intensity stretching) there was brisk walking. The premise that certain gyms provide a ‘revolutionary’ mode of exercise is like investing in a stock that oversteps their realistic projections. Buyer beware. Although it might seem so passé, basic aerobic conditioning is tried and true and always pays a dividend.
Understand your risk tolerance. Bonds, stocks, annuities, tech? How do you allocate your portfolio? How diverse is it? Most remember the boom in the late 90s when the market was providing unusually high returns. My high school math teacher thought he was a Wall Street wizard. Similarly, this past summer ‘Judy’ and I had a conversation about her attempts at regular activity. She relayed the story of her all-star effort for 3 months that included 6 am boot camp, starring ‘The World’s Greatest Drill Sergeant,’ 5 days per week, and 40 lbs. of weight loss. Wow! What a great 3 months. Oh, and there was the chronic plantar fasciitis, herniated L4-L5 disc, and regular visits to the sports medicine clinic. All for what? That was a failed investment. Judy has learned now that exercise comes with risk. Better that the activity you choose be sustainable, repeatable, and plastic enough that it can conform to a variety of conditions. Like a trusted stock, rarely do you need to endure long painful episodes of losses; in the end you will gain more then you lose, and you won’t go bankrupt along the way.
Market timing doesn’t work. The question of timing your exercise is asked often.
Question: “Richard, which is better? Exercising first thing in the morning to boost my metabolism for the day or exercise at night and shed fat while I sleep?”
Most agree there is no particular benefit when you are active unless you are in great need to control blood glucose. My recommendation is to ponder less about this idea of an optimal, efficient, and ideal time to move but focus on a plan of meeting an activity goal daily.
Dollar cost averaging pays off in the end. A quote from the ACSM guidelines, “Some activity is better than none,” sounds very similar to “Save a little weekly, and interest will do the rest.” As has been referenced in this column before, the Harvard Alumni Study has tracked activity levels and mortality rates. In 2004, Dr. Lee and colleagues concluded that as little as 1,000 calories burned per week (in as little as 1-2 episodes weekly) protected against risk of mortality over the individuals that were sedentary at <500 calories burned per week. Termed a ‘weekend warrior,’1 a tennis match, hike with the dog, round of golf walked, or skiing at your local hill all pays off. The key is that it is a regular investment, regardless of weather, time of day, or travel schedule. With the advent of an industrialized society ripe with energy-saving tools, we often look at activity as a rare and inconvenient task. If you invest episodically in the market, like going to the gym on January 1st but miss the rest of the month, the profitability of investing regularly is lost.
Select ‘automatic withdrawals’ to your retirement account. Consider the nature of investing your money 100 years ago. From receiving the money from your employer, potentially in cash, counting it, carrying it to the bank, standing in line, depositing it into your bank account or hiding it in the mattress. It was time-consuming and could be challenging if anything got in the way. The same is true for appointing time for exercise. On the list of most common impediments to regular exercise are travel schedule, family duties, and time needed to get to and from the gym. The premise behind N.E.A.T. (non-exercise activity) is to focus on staying on your feet, accumulating movement as a part of daily life. It is N.E.A.T. that appears to play a role in protecting adult urbanites from some of the propensity to higher body fats, higher blood sugars, and a higher incidence of CV disease. The Blue Zones Project calls it moving naturally, as they consult with communities around the U.S. to improve the environment for walkers and bikers.
If you are an all-seasons exerciser, then 3 cheers for you!! But if you need to simplify your approach so you start to earn some profit, read Warren Buffet’s book. Better yet, get the audio version and listen to it while you get your groove on. Good hustle!
1 Lee IM, et. al. “The ‘weekend warrior’ and risk of mortality.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 160(7):636-41. October 1, 2004
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