The whole world is drowning in the incredible, magnificent, growth-hormone spiking, heart-rate variability improving, lung-expanding, fat-burning benefits of high-intensity exercise. I define high-intensity exercise as basically the type of exercise that you can’t do for more than a minute or two at a time before either a) dying or b) slowing down and catching your breath. The superiority of high-intensity over low-intensity exercise just keeps on rolling in. And the fitness world has been thoroughly hijacked by it. Crossfit, Insanity, P90X, HIIT, Plyometrics, Bodyrock – it’s all grueling work at high heart rates in excess of the lactate threshold (the level of oxygen-deprivation where lactic acid starts being produced at a high rate). The case for high-intensity exercise – interval training, hard weightlifting, etc., is a strong case. So how could there be a case for low-intensity exercise? Isn’t that like, SOOOO 1986?
Perhaps it is so 1986, but 1986 was awesome. Let’s look simply at the quality of the movies that were released that year…
Top Gun… Ferriss Bueller’s Day Off… Stand By Me… Pretty in Pink… Big Trouble in Little China… Three Amigos… Nine 1/2 Weeks… Labyrinth… Flight of the Navigator… Karate Kid II… Short Circuit… Back to School… Lucas… Crocodile Freaking Dundee
I rest my case. Just because it was cool in 1986 but isn’t now doesn’t make it better. Plus, look at Rodney’s bodycomp. Like a Greek statue. That’s all the evidence I need.
It’s not all about “scientific evidence” showing that a high-intensity group lost more fat in 12 weeks than a low intensity exercising group. If we could just do what most effectively causes weight loss for 12 weeks and live happily-ever-after this blog wouldn’t need exist. And I could just go back to hiking around in the woods.
There are other things to consider, and this series should serve – not as a call for everyone to dramatically switch from one side of a fence to another, but to?put low-intensity exercise back on the menu. It needs to be back on the menu, just like waffles, pizza, and Coca Cola sometimes need to be on the menu, for individual people to openly and objectively discover for themselves what they need at any given time to move towards health.
Several things have sorta come together all at the same time to make me reconsider low-intensity exercise. For starters, on the last post a few comments piled up championing a dramatic return to health once high-intensity exercise was ditched and substituted with lower heart rate activities like hiking and yoga. Read the first of those?comments HERE. Julia Gumm also recently wrote a post discussing some of the benefits of moving around physically during the day instead of sitting in front of a computer or tv screen. My dad, soon-to-be?age 69 (heh heh), tried to do a hard bodyweight exercise routine and quickly saw his strength, energy levels, sleep, and more regress – while gaining belly weight. And me? Well, I spend way too much time sitting around in front of a computer and being inactive in general (I’ve watched 5 of the above-listed movies in the last month for example), and when I do, I get super stiff in the back and hips. I thrive when spending a significant portion of EVERY day on my feet and doing things physically, which brings us to perhaps the strongest evidence of all for low-intensity exercise…
You can do A LOT of it without taxing your body very much.
If I do high-intensity exercise I am wiped out for an entire day after. I feel like sleeping all day, am kinda grumpy, am sore. I end up sitting around all day and getting super stiff. Doing intermittent hard exercise leaves me feeling tired, sore, stiff, and achy most of the time. Plus, I’m pretty beat for many hours after I do hard exercise the day of. I go through life almost never feeling like I’m in my top form.
I have applied this lower intensity idea’to weightlifting as well, doing what most of the guys in the gym do – which is do a set and then take it easy for a while before doing another. No more lung-dropping while lifting?only to feel completely wiped out for 36 hours after. Lately I’ve been keeping the ol’ heart rate and respiratory rate much lower. Workouts are longer, but longer is actually good for my stiff body. In fact, the longer the workout takes the more loosened up and energetic I become. And I feel great the next day and often go back to lift more weights. Plus, during the day I have the energy and desire to actually go on walks and do other light activities. I feel like I’m at my peak most of the time now instead of almost never.
We’ll keep discussing this topic in future segments. I hope to do a post specifically about the Maffetone Method, which has recently surfaced in the comments section, as well as something about lactic acid.
Some people get much better results with high-intensity exercise. There’s no question about that. But some seem to find that low-intensity exercise is a much better fit for their personal health needs, preferences, metabolism, and personal circumstances. ?And, like just about everything, both forms of exercise have their pros and cons. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s more about finding out what YOU need, which is why this series needs to be written – to level the score and make you open to a wider variety of options. In actuality, a blend of many types of exercise for well-rounded fitness will probably always reign supreme for the general public.
Any post that shows a picture of a young Olivia Newton John with ankle warmers is tops in my book! :) am I first?
Trivia: She was reluctant to record the song “Physical” because she thought it was too risque. How times have changed.
Please let me be first. First means primal and I desperately want to be primal.
“During sex my wife always wants to talk to me. Just the other night she called me from a hotel.” – Rodney Dangerfield
Pretty In Pink is one of the best movies ever. Duckie doing Otis Redding? I mean come on, man, that’s just freaking brilliant.
That’s totally my girlfriend’s favorite part too.
Duckie was so hawt.
Matt, I’m so glad to see you writing about this. I have severe adrenal issues and just about any extra stress, either emotional or physical, can plummet me into an adrenal crash. I get sick and I’m so exhausted that I can’t function and cry all the time. Every time I have tried to “push” myself and do high-intensity exercise, either intermittent or not, my adrenals crash and I get sick. That doesn’t motivate to keep exercising, for sure. Once, though, I walked on our treadmill for 45 minutes straight at a crazy-slow speed, like slow-motion walking, some would say. But by the end of the time, I actually felt clear-headed, and energetic. I felt great and never got fatigued or sore. I’m thinking I should just go back to that and stop trying to ram myself into a type of exercise that others SAY I should do.
I could have written that, Lisa. I agree. I have tried all the high intensity stuff — intervals & body weight resistance stuff which is TOUGH!!! My adrenals ALWAYS take a hit when I do & I end up gaining weight. I have a high stress life & try my damnedest to de-stress all I can & sleep as much as possible but just damn near impossible. We have two daughters who have profound special needs & don’t sleep much. They require total care so I’m “on” all the time. We have some help, but honestly, I don’t want someone else raising my kids, so I try to do as much as I can. Anyway — the 30 min. walks I take — I feel better after those than after some 10-15 min. SUPER INTENSE interval session. I KNOW they say it should work & I should lose weight. But I don’t… and I DO think I’m in starvation mode & trying like hell to EAT MORE SHIT all day, but I just don’t always get the job done.
Anyway — there has to be something to the MOVING & not sitting thing. Been reading up about sitting too much over at Mercola & I agree that too much is probably bad. But too much high intensity stuff isn’t good for me either. Like something more in the middle… or at least my adrenals do.
Nice to know I’m not alone.
Hi Gwennie Poo! So good to see you posting! Would you go on over to Ann Marie’s blog and hurl the F word around for us?? We miss that! I know I owe you an email…I’ll touch base soon! Hugs
That’s exactly my experience– I keep my hr in my aerobic zone and by the end I feel like I could do it all over again, except that I am sweating. I never sweat much at all doing my HIIT inspired workouts. I don’t know if it’s just a matter of duration or whether the low intensity is doing something to my body– but I feel like my body is working more normally now. Also, I used to have to drag myself to the gym to do a 20 minute session, now I can’t wait to go for an hour 5x/ week.
Flight of the Navigator! We work quotes from that movie into everyday life.
Have you met Katy Bowman? She’s a biomechanist and founder of Restorative Exercise Institute. I feel the same way about her outlook on physical fitness as I do about your outlook on food. Total lightbulb moment! Maybe our bodies just aren’t all that high-maintenance after all?
I went to high school with a kid who was in Flight of the Navigator. The kid’s nerdy little brother at the beginning of the movie when he was still young. I don’t know much about Katy Bowman but will try to check it out.
“David’s got the hots for Jennifer Bradley!” I wonder if that kid looked pretty much the same as a high schooler.
Here’s her blog, too, just in case you find yourself with extra time, heh.
OMG! Rebekah, I am so glad that you’ve mentioned Katy! Seriously, Matt, you and Katy are kindred spirits, but coming from different sides. I was just searching for some of her posts that relate to this one and found like four that reference the very movies that you’ve listed above. I recommend using her search bar and looking at her “Side Effects” post and “Save the Knees!” post that tie in with this less is more thing. I also want to keep recommending every post of hers. Every single post is a miracle gem, just like yours! GEEZUS! Just read the whole thing, Matt!
I third Katy Bowman. Though she is into paleo stuff I get the idea that she looks at things first from a biomechanic perspective. I also laugh out loud at her posts.
Hey Guys. Katy Bowman is doing some awesome things.
So is a woman in Paris who has done 30+ years of research named, Noelle Perez-Christiaens, Ph.D. Her work at Institut Superieur Aplomb restoring misalignment is informed by people in healthy cultures with very low incidences of back, knee, and all kinds of pain. People who maintain their strength and ease because of the physical labor they perform all day, including the sometimes immense weight of the objects they carry on their heads. Somehow, their bodies work with, not against gravity.
And the kicker. When you work with her Master Teachers it’s all about strength via relaxation. I’m starting to teach here in Albuquerque. But if you’re ever in Paris, GO. It’s like nothing else being taught as it addresses your fitness in terms of whether you’re working or not, with gravity.
Not to knock Katy, but I think Christiaens, Ph.D is wayyyy more along the lines of how Matt works. Relaxation powers everything.
Thanks for pointing out these two women. Despite ETF, light activity with occasional strength training episodes, I’m so sore and tired lately and need some help figuring out what to do. Seems like some of the exercises in the routine I was doing made the muscles in my tush really tight and shortened. I’ve been trying to stretch, but whatever is going on in there has agravated my hip joint and I feel like a 50 year old arthritic (only 32). Aspirin has been my best friend these last few days. :-/ I’m going to check out these ladies…and take a nap.
Thanks KarenE for pointing out another resource! This stuff is so fascinating to me, that I want to check out anyone out there that is doing this work. However, after researching through just a tiny bit of Christiaens’ stuff, I see too many similarities between Katy and Noelle to say one is better than the other. A key piece of Katy’s advice is relaxation; one of her core tenants is something along the lines of ‘tighter does not mean stronger?. She regularly encourages mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation.
I think people are more likely to defend the position that they approached first, and stick close to that paradigm of teaching. For instance, some of the people out there doing this kind of alignment and mobility research are Gary Gray, Kelly Starrett, Katy Bowman, and Dr. Steve Gangemi. They all come from different disciplines and focus on different things. The Gray Institute focuses on golf, KStarr of MobilityWOD is what I call the ?masculine man’s Katy Bowman?, Katy does a lot on pregnancy and natural child rearing, and Dr. Gangemi is a foot doc ?Sock Doc?. They all have tremendous knowledge and expertise, but I don’t agree with everything each one says. I think if you can find your ?clan guru? that you’ll be light years ahead of the rest of the population, especially if you can supplement their knowledge with pieces from the others? perspectives.
My parents have been doing this kind of teaching and training for years, however they don’t have any fancy degrees or blogs for me to point to. To outside people I say that my mom is a type of physical therapist (although she is ?just? a personal trainer) and my dad is a tai chi instructor (he says ‘student?). But their knowledge comes from direct experience and that is hard to market without an internet audience. They have a tiny personal training studio in the RFV of Colorado, with a limited clientele pool. They have been doing this shit for decades and one thing that I have learned from them is that learning is the biggest piece of the puzzle.
I liken this whole process to the poor saps? predicament in WALL-E. We have been so off track with our modern ways of movement (or lack of) that it’s like teaching somebody how to chew food with their own jaws. Sure, it seems easy to us, but if you try to break it down into a series of mechanical steps, for someone that has never done it naturally and has been fed through a straw, then everyone is going to have a different way of explaining the process. What do you start with? Muscle strength? Muscle length? Blah, blah, blah. This is too long already. Lol.
Hi. TangyTam, I can see why you would think that way, and I’m actually really glad you brought it up…but Noelle and Katy are very different. I’ve actually worked with Noelle and her teachers and have experienced some of Katy’s work, as well as read her blog (i’m a fan), and seen photos of her. Though she is of course, GORGEOUS, Noelle is doing something completely different. She is restoring skeleton and the core in a way that directly addresses our life long relationship with gravity. So Katy’s work is in the right direction, but I’d say Noele’s work is more direct, if that makes sense.
Katy’s is also nice. And a wonderful teacher. So this is not in anyway a criticism of her. I’m just saying these two things are not the same.
Unfortunately you really have to EXPERIENCE Noele’s work to get it. And to compare it to anything else. I could show you photos of Noele’s teachers vs Katy and you’d see the difference immediately. Now Katy, again, is GORGEOUS, but I think the photos would show that there is a difference.
Oh, and TangyTam! First, I love tai chi. One of my Grand Masters is just as much of an influence as Noele. I’d say same truth, different art.
You mentioned the way we move etc, but a huge issue with “posture” or “alignment” is the fact that it’s changed A LOT over the past 100 years. Incidences of back pain etc..have worsened dramatically and thanks to all kinds of societal influences, and traumas in our lives, stress etc…we lose the natural alignment we’re born with. That’s why I use the word “restoration” a lot.
Your parents sound like rockstars!
@KarenE, I totally agree that experience is the ultimate judge of a program’s effectiveness. After reading through tons of Katy’s information I didn’t really “get” any of it until I contacted one of her graduates here in Seattle. It’s like night and day. I wish that I could experience the same with Noelle’s work!
It is so hard to evaluate a movement practice completely through the internet. Speaking about appearances, the reasons that I see similarities between the two practices are the IDENTICAL (I’m just trying to emphasize, not shout :)) language in your temporary website and most of Katy’s graduates and information. If I had just stumbled upon your website without knowing what teachings you follow I would have assumed it came directly from Katy’s program. Appearance is not the sum of information. So I can totally see what you’re talking about. I think you and I are on the same page. I just want to learn! Besides, my French isn’t that proficient, LOL! If you would prefer to take this off of Matt’s thread, I would like to contact you via email and see what else I can learn. Thanks for the discussion!
Oh, and BTW I am definitely the annoying child that couldn’t see the wisdom that was coming from my parents! The valuable gems that drop from my parents? mouths go from one ear out to the next. It took outside ?experts? for me to see how awesome their knowledge and experience is. I hope that I’m done learning that lesson. They truly are rock stars, thanks!
Feel free to contact me about anything TangyTam! I like the discussion too.
I went to high school with the daughter in the Cone Heads movie!
Impressive! Did you guys make fun of her giant head? Or was that them special effect things that did that?
Very timely post. I was thinking about the exact same thing since reading the comments about Maffetone, even though I’ve never heard that term before. The comments from “In” sound exactly like me.
In college, I was able to lift much more than I do now. Obviously, I was 10 years younger then, and that probably has something to do with it. But I was also walking around a *lot* more then, along with running quite a bit. I was taking protein shakes then too- the one I remember having the best results from had something like 70+ g of carbs (mostly from dextrose) to around 35g of protein (from whey). I think it had creatine in it as well, but nowhere near the typical “loading” amount. I’d add that to a blender with milk and a bunch of fresh and frozen fruit. Out of curiosity, I looked at GNC’s website recently to see if I could find it (I think it was in the Pro Performance line), but to no avail (everything there seems to be sweetened with sucralose now).
Anyway, I was at 205lbs then, feeling like I could tear it up in the gym any day of the week. Then, I got pulled into “healthy” eating, fasting, cleansing, etc.. Luckily I got out of that (mostly thanks to WAPF), but that was around the same time I started a sedentary desk job, and started reading about stuff like HIIT and the “dangers” of aerobic conditioning, and never got back to where I was.
Now, I just checked the scale, and I’m less than 160lbs. I’m eating as much as I feel like, mostly with whatever I feel like (plenty of cookies, jello, fruit, ice cream, etc.), but don’t seem to put on weight, and when I weight lift (which is very infrequently now), I can be sore for days, even if I feel fine immediately afterwards. Starting to think that lack of activity overall might have something to do with in.
In Chris Masterjohn’s latest article, he has a chart showing that CO2 levels are significantly higher during activity than during rest. Since low-intensity activity typically lasts much longer than high-intensity, I wonder if there may be more benefits from CO2 for low-intensity.
Try the Bluebonnet brand Whey + Casein. The Casein seems to do stuff the Whey doesn’t- keep me full longer, make my hair and nails nicer (I know you’re a guy, but guys still want nice hair right?) even my skin looks nicer. There is no sweetener in the plain one- the others have stevia (yuck). I always mix with banana for carbs but I’m sure you could just add dextrose too.
Sorry, to clarify I meant the mix of whey/casein does those things while plain whey powder does not.
We’ll hopefully get into some lactic acid, oxygen, and CO2 conversations deeper into this series. As far as finding a product like you had before, the closest approximation to that you can find at a place like GNC would be a half serving of Optimum Nutrition’s Serious Mass. http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/sm.html?MCID=CG-PLA-US&mr%3AtrackingCode=F21E2529-8C26-E111-973E-001517384908&mr%3AreferralID=NA&mr%3AadType=pla&mr%3Aad=24565929066&mr%3Akeyword=&mr%3Amatch=&mr%3Afilter=47947143186
Hey Matt, do you have any opinion on or experience with tongkat ali?
What is that? Bittermelon that converted to Islam?
No I don’t know anything about it. Why do you ask? Have you taken it and had good effects from it?
That looks about right. Though I don’t think I can bring myself to take that again. I’d be satisfied to be at 175-180lbs w/o it, which I was at one time.
Thinking about this article more, however, it seems that low-intensity exercise will typically give me a big appetite almost immediately, while the HIIT-type stuff will leave me not wanting to eat anything for more than an hour afterwards. Stress hormones for sure.
Nice to see this, because I’ve been trying the “high intensity” thing with weights the last few months and it seems to totally blow out my immune system and I haven’t seen any positive changes from it either. Historically, I always did higher reps and lower weights (done very slowly) and I seemed to get good results with that even though that doesn’t seem to be the trend right now…
The high intensity thing seems to put me into a high-cortisol stress state very quickly. Then again, I am 6′ 2” and about 160lbs. Sometimes I think body type/constitution has a lot to do with this. It seems that “bigger” guys – mesomorphs or mess-endomorphs seem to excel at this high intensity thing better than, say, ectomorphs or mess-ectomorphs…just my observation…
I don’t know if I’ve made such a connection with body types. But that’s kind of how working too hard effects me as well, and I definitely don’t think of myself as an ectomorph.
It’s interesting. I’ve been reading and experimenting (and ruining my health trying to be healthy) for going on 20 years now. During this time I’ve read a lot of books on weight training and optimizing athletic performance because I’ve always enjoyed exercise and trying to be in the best condition that I can.
It seems that the vast majority of dudes who recommend high-intensity training are built like tanks AND these same dudes almost inevitably advocate “fat burning,” carb avoidance, and even ketosis diets. When I have gone down those roads in terms of training and eating it has never lasted long or been a good thing, but it seems to work for a small segment of the population.
Given my personal belief in biochemical individuality, I have, for some time, thought that perhaps 25% of the population actually thrives on a lower-carb, higher fat diet AND these same people tend to do better with high-intensity anaerobic exercise. The problem is that they write books and promote what works for them for everyone.
Alternately, as most of us have discovered, I think most people do better on a moderate-to-high carb diet with adequate protein and moderate fat AND probably lower-intensity exercise.
This also interestingly – though I am not an advocate of his system – mirrors the Type A/O blood type diets that D’Adamo writes about and even corresponds to some of the metabolic typing “types.”
So, though I don’t have time for detail (gotta get to work), while I am being rather general here, it’s interesting to contemplate constitution, both body type and metabolic tendencies, when thinking about appropriate exercise. Clearly what works well for some people doesn’t work well for a lot of others.
From what I’ve read at the Bloodtype Diet sites,Type O would thrive best doing at least 4days of hard exercise and also basically came down upon a Paleoish Diet
I luv low-intensity. In fact, per Joan Vernikos’ book “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals”, THE most helpful low-intensity “exercise” we can do is simply to stand up and sit back down, often, throughout the day.
If that’s true, stay-at-home moms have it made. Every time I sit down, the kids need something and I have to stand back up again! Often. All throughout the day ;)
Ain’t that the truth– I do think this plays into an epiphany that’s been unfolding for me… it’s good to have a structured form of activity and not just the loose tenets of move frequently and lift heavy things. My youngest child is heavy. He’s about to turn 4 and he’s 50 lbs (he was one ounce shy of 10lbs at birth) and we live in a 3rd story walk-up. When he was a baby, I had him strapped in the bjorn about 30% of the day and I never really saw some great improvement in strength or physique– I’m actually much heavier than when I had a desk job and a garage and drove everywhere. Don’t get me wrong– I think it’s really important to move and lift and stay active throughout your day, but I’m not sure it’s enough if your’e looking for marked changes. I come from some really long generations, so my grandfather was born in 1884 (I’m 40) and I can remember that he took a 5 mile walk every day (barring inclement weather) up until close to his death at 97. The walk was at the same time daily and he had done it always– even though he was a farmer– my mom said he would do it after cows were milked and the first chores were done. My great aunt and his sister, who died at the age of 104 did morning exercises daily. She broke her hip at 98 and not only did it heal, but she was walking again within 2 months. While she was healing she continued to do her workout in her rocking chair. She would place a bag of potatoes or something else heavy on her lap and push back (granny leg press).
Awesome story! :-) Love it.
One of my favorite movie of all time, “Wings of Desire” came out in 1986, so there must be some truth to what you are saying here :)
Second time you mention that movie. My favorite too. Did portrait of WW few months ago, he is a hero..
At the moment, I cannot do any HITs, which result in a crash feeling cold all day so I simply walk around the park for 30 -45 minutes every day and my hands feel toasted warm afterward.
I spent the last 2 years living the Paleo lifestyle and pushing my body using HITs and look where it got me!
Probably won’t be doing any HITs anytime soon. I reckon it will be 6 – 9 months before I even thinking about doing it. :-(
Matt, off the subject… What do you think of sauna? I love sauna and do it 2 – 3 times a week. Is sauna taxing on the adrenal?
The sauna is probably a good thing. No major definitive thoughts about it though.
LOL got no idea who/what any of these people/movies are. #childofthe90s
Great post as usual!
As a side note, I remember reading something a year or two ago on Jason Ferrugia’s blog that if you work at high intensities past forty minutes you get a huge cortisol release. Maybe that’s why some people have experienced burnout.
The results of high-intensity exercise are not the only reason for exercise. I consider the ability to run 3-5 miles or more at a decent pace to be an important ability and standard of fitness. I want to be able to do short-term high-intensity activity and long-term low-intensity activity (such as a long run).
I think that’s why it’s important not to do one type of exercise to the exclusion of all the other unless you are training for something very specific.
Interesting article. I believe walking is essential for health and well being. I also believe High Intensity Weight Training is the best training modality for average Joe or Jane ever, for the reasons you already explained many times.
Clarence Bass actually proposed to combine walking most days of the week with one HIT session a week. He called this a McGuff-Maffetone method.
I think this is great. You achieve health, well being and performance, while spending about half and hour a day either exercising, or (mostly) walking, and the possibility of injury is virtually non-existent.
By the way, even McGuff says that you can’t keep Ferrari in a garrage for the rest of the week. His clients become spontaneously much more active and engaged in non-structured “fitness” activities like sports or walking, because they suddenly feel capable, strong, and can’t help themselves.
I don’t know. There is something really fishy about Clarence Bass.
Thank you, thank you…tip your server…try the veal…
don’t forget to tip the veal and try your server
It’s also quite hard to sustain infrequent HIT mentally without low intensity activity.
By the way, my current “life protocol”:
HIT 2x a week, short full body A/B routine of about 8 exercises/20-25 minutes each, simple and compound movements, so the volume is pretty low.
Walking on non-training days for 30 minutes.
Creatine monohydrate tablets: 5g/day.
Sleep 8 h/night.
Eating in Diet Recovery 2 style.
Sounds pretty good to me.
I train really consistently like that only for about 1.5 month maybe…I did HIT for some time, but with interruptions of weeks, changing routines etc….in the last few days I got 3 comments “You look bigger.” from bros and even my obese father, who finally agreed to”hire” me as a coach:-)
That means taking dumps is one bad ass workout… Thats two or three reps per day for me. If i stop peeing standing up, thats like 3-5 more reps.
Wow, I hadn’t realized how strong a year 1986 was. Good stuff. Hollywood has really lost its edge.
I feel best if the day before or that morning I do a set of hard, compound movements. Like squats or bench press. But I definitely rest between sets. It’s not HIIT.
Question. It seems like in the exercise sphere, much like in the diet sphere, extremes rule. When the whole HIIT, Peak 8 what not came out it was the rage, but even Mercola had troubled keeping it up. And that guy’s ripped. Anyway, does anyone know if perhaps the benefits of intervals is not their intensity, but perhaps the fact that you are just changing up your heart rate a bit? Seems like there should be a Low Intensity Interval Training type thing. LINT. HOT!
I don’t doubt that Mercola has a hard time keeping it up. However, how can you call him ripped? He looks emaciated to me. I wonder if you are Meredith Y or Meredith L.
So glad you are going to discuss the Maffetone Method – I’m surprised Phil doesn’t get more “press” in the fitness blogosphere. First came across him about 15 years ago and I believe his concept of establishing an aerobic base *before* progressing to any anaerobic activity has much merit. He also recommends returning to a few weeks of base building every year, as well as lots of easy movement during the day (walking, gardening, etc.). “Recovery” is crucial and highly neglected in the fitness realm. I have found that if I do more than 2 sessions of HIIT during a week that I feel overtrained – have even gotten sick (which is otherwise rare).
This idea of easy activity & recovery days is a hard sell these days. I’ve been in the fitness field for 30 years & have seen a disturbing trend back into the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Recently I was walking out of our local hospital late in the evening & could not help but hear the phone conversation of the young man who was walking out ahead of me. He was visiting a young lady friend who was hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, which can be life-threatening – because she took a Crossfit class and tried to keep up with everyone else (she was returning to exercising after being away from it for some time period). Ugh. Have trainers forgotten about the FITT Principle? (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type). Increase them all at once & you’re going to pay for it.
Anyway – as someone who was doing all that low intensity stuff in the 80s, I’m looking forward to your future posts on the subject.
Jacquelyn, I really resonate with a lot of what you are saying. I too, am in the fitness industry by trade (since 1993) and agree that people seem to think that they have to beat the @#*& out of themselves each and every time they work out. They do it day after day after day…and then wonder why they never make any substantial improvement in their fitness.
I did read the Maffetone Method a few years back and experimented with it when I was training for my 7th marathon. Here is an account of my findings: http://cyndilourunning.blogspot.com/2011/01/to-get-faster-runslower.html
My current workout schedule is: M/W/F walking (usually for an hour M/F and a half hour + grocery shopping on Wed.), yoga T/Th, Bootcamp style workout on Saturday (lately with Nike training club), and rest on Sunday. I have been eating the food and I feel great!
This is a schedule that I feel like I can stick to forever…I walk with friends and love my yoga and miss my workouts when I don’t get them in, Nothing that I’m doing is wearing me out, even though my Saturday workouts do make me sore- I like that. I’m glad to hear some arguments in favor of what I’m already figuring out works for me.
I *so* needed this one… I have been “trying” and failing to lose 20 pounds for the last three years. In that time I have been losing and gaining between 5 to 10 pounds, without ever really losing anything except my health. Working out at such a high level for the past few months (6 days a week for 60-90 mins of intervals and high intensity workouts) has made me sick, literally. I have pneumonia! I haven’t even had a cold in a year, and boom, I’m sicker than I’ve ever been. Didn’t lose any weight and feel like crap. #Fail
I’m an endomorph for sure, so perhaps the body fat style has something to do with it. I would really like to have more info on body fat style and distribution. I have thin arms and legs, gain muscle easily, and have all of body fat in my chest, waist, and muffin top. Most women would love to have large breasts, but I personally can’t stand it. And that’s where I always gain weight first, and hardly ever lose. Very frustrating. I’m thinking it’s cortisol related now after reading this…. I think I was putting way too much stress on my body (and I’ve been under a great deal of financial and emotional stress also). It’s the perfect storm.
Ditto to you checking out Katy Bowman.
Interesting that this came up. I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve done crossfit for a long time and really enjoy it. (chide if you like, but working out with people you like is fun). I’ve seen the info on how high intensity is better low intensity, but what I’ve been wondering lately is for how long. How many high intensity workouts can a body take a week and actually recover well? How many years can the Rich Frohnings and Annie Thorsdottirs keep it up before they completely tear down their bodies? Or forget them, how long can the regular people keep it up and be improving health as opposed to damaging health? I’m sure there are a lot of factors that play into all of it, but something I’ve been mulling over lately.
So funny that several of us thought of Katy bowman’s blog. This and hers are my favorite health sites on the internet. But I dunno, if we send Matt over there with his breastfeeding obsession…remember that leaky boob shot of hers? We may never see Matt again!
I was considering her booby talk as being a persuasive to Matt as well. ;)
Dude, where is the link to this?
Carrie, I’ve considered losing Matt to be a risk well worth the payoff. Imagine an epic Katy/Matt combo! I agree, and only subscribe to these two blogs “religiously” while dabbling in others. Found them both in December 2011 and have been glued ever since, although I’ve never come out of the woodwork before.
Matt, search for the post titled, “Apple boobs.”
Heck yeah. Low intensity, high volume is where it’s at! I usually walk 6-8 miles a day, with a few short jogs to catch busses or a blinking crosswalk light. Also i climb stairs and cover varied terrain. Add to that about two hours per day or yoga/capoeira (the slower Angola style)/stretching. I feel better than ever, and sleep much better. Also less anxiety and nervousness. Im done with sprints and circuits.that kust puts tyhe body into fight or flight mode and damages longevity potential.
Why does it have to be a choice of one or the other. Both compliment each other if constructed properly within a weekly training cycle. Your first point of call in any comparison needs to be context.
(PS. I’ve just read your book Diet Recovery 2. It has some very valid points and I was pleased to see that you held strong on your #7 rule re unsaturated fats, BUT the whole over-eating to raise metabolism in the hope that its going to work some healthy magic is all intuitively very dubious. I believe you will be making, maybe not a 180* turn on this at some time in the future, but probably a 270*. Good luck)
Well it does work magic. There’s no question about that. The question is whether or not there is collateral damage that makes undergoing the process in such a fashion worth it.
Yeah, it does work magic. I was able to get my daily body temps up to not only 98.6 but more consistently to 98.8-99 F. My sleep has dramaticall improved to the point where I can get a solid deep 7 hrs of sleep and wake up feeling refreshed when previously I would struggle to get a decent 3 hrs sleep. Since the overfeed period, I have been able to just eat to appeteite and over teh past couple of weeks I have started to lose weight but very slowly. However, I’;m not the poster boy for Matt’s technique in that I have never been able to wake up with a body temp over 97.6 F. My question for Matt is what does it mean when waking temps are 97.6 but the peak body temps at around 6 – 7pm run as high as 99F? Any thoughts?
Sorry for all the typos.
Bump for this question as I have similar experience. Anyone else been down this road?
Well, I have been looking over the Eatopia site a lot, and reading peoples stories.
And the approach there is basically RRARF.
Resting, and eating in abundance and overabundance to heal and restore the body’s functions to a healed state;
and over time allowing the body to naturally balance out at a healthy weight without food restrictions and overexercise.
It seems a lot have success:
and it is considered essential to the healing process to eat many calories – over and above normal maintenance, so that the body has the extra energy to heal and restore body functions to the optimum.
It is definately a personal thing
I started eccentric weights mid last year and it is doing great things for me, but in saying that I only do weights once a week and some times will let it go for 9-12 days. in between I ride my bike to school with my daughter swim often but gently and just keep moving . And while my weight hasn’t changed much my measurements have and i feel great.
Just as Matt says I feel there is a place for everything, but you must listen to your own body and let the wisdom of your body do the talking
Yeah, aerobics! My Denise Austin workouts are officially back in rotation– making sure to keep my intensity low, of course. Now if someone would bring neon jellies and leg warmers back and make Real Genius II my life will be complete. Anyway, so glad you’re addressing this in a post since I’ve been one of the Maffetone methoders comment section folks– I’m eager to hear other perspectives; especially since the body comp results aren’t immediate and dramatic (unlike the higher intensity is supposed to be).
Real Genius was one of the first things I thought about this morning. That scene where he realizes dry ice was the solution and runs around the dorm freaking out in is underwear. No I’m not gay.
That’s funny you mention that scene (and any red-blooded hetero guy would and should be impressed by Chris Knight) because I really wanted to work either “Ice is nice” or “how’s it feel to be frozen?” in the above comment, but I just couldn’t.
Oh my god. Denise Austin is one of the reasons why I’m a health junkie. What kid spends Saturday mornings doing work out shows with their Denise Austin-neopolitan-ice cream-look-alike of a stepping block?
Denise is a goddess. I’ve had her Fit and Fabulous after 40 since I was 30. If only I had stayed with her rather conservative 30 minutes and squeezing my glutes in the grocery line, I’d probably be rockin’ 40 right now. But things aren’t too bad, so it’s time to revisit it, I think.
I ( 37, male ) was a long distance runner for fifteen years. Good health, enjoyed my training. Ate the food without exceptions. Then stumbled on low carb / Paleo, including HIIT, HIT blablabla and tried it hard for several years.
Well, it ruined my health.
I really like moving around all day – and not this high intensity cretinism with being blacked out for several days.
Matt, this post is awesome, it’s like you read my mind.
A few months ago I started gymnastics strength training, scaled it down to my capabilities and feeling very fine with it. Some running alongside.
What I like about that type of training is it’s holism. It’s almost impossible to neglect a part of the body. My low back pain is gone, nothing has done that before. And it’s fun.
I really can relate to the stiffness caused by sitting around too much and too long. And although I was on the primal bullshit trip, I was more inactive than in my “aerobics” years. Because I was so damn exhausted all the time.
The gymnastics training solved this problem ( especially in my lower back and hip region I’m much more agile and mobile – even more than in my 20s! )
I can hardly wait for your next post!
Funny how this works– I used to just workout 4 or 5 times a week and try to eat healthy and I was fine, but then I convinced myself that I was a ticking time bomb because I was not ‘perfectly healthy’ — whatever that means– and I ate processed foods. Several years later, fatter and (before 180 my return to carbs) really tired and low body temp I felt like I had been on a wild goose chase.
Ah, I forgot… 1986? Top Gun, yeah… I remember coming out of the cinema ( 11 years old ) and everything I ever wanted to be was Iceman.
Hey, what is Val Kilmer doing these days…
This will probably doom my chances of ever looking cool here again, but my favorite movie of 1986 was Star Trek 4, The Voyage Home. No? Anyone? They saved the planet from our own short sightedness! Again!
Was that the movie where they go back in time to get some whales to bring back to their future time to repopulate the oceans? If so, classic!! LOL!!
Fuck yes it was! And where Spock uses the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on a punk rocker on a San Francisco city bus? YES IT WAS!
Sister, you’re going to have to come up with something A LOT dorkier than that to convince me you’ve lost your cool.
The Star Trek with the whales! And Spock using “colorful” expressions.
Colorful “metaphors.” But that you know that at all makes me all warm and tingly.
Wasn’t one of Kirk’s funny lines on the subway “Oh yeah, well double dumb ass on you!”?
Ah! So close! It was when he was walking out in the middle of traffic after they first arrived, and a driver yells “watch where you’re going, you dumbass!” Then Kirk replies “Well double dumbass on you!” Then once they’re on the bus, Spock asks Kirk about his use of “shall we say, colorful metaphors?”
The whole problem with “High Intensity” is ambiguity in the meaning. Does it mean high power output or does it mean pushing up to the point of failure Arthur Jones style? The latter never worked for me. Doing one set per exercise either means no stimulation or immediate overtraining and mind numbness the next day or so. I can work out with the exact same weights (first meaning of intensity) but stop before failure and feel great the next day, despite doing three times as much physical work.
I got my greatest lifetime strength gains by doing hundreds of sets of one rep deadlifts over the course of one week — lifting sheets of tobacco onto conveyer belts in sweltering barns.
Yes, “high intensity” these days means pushing your body past form breakdown, past pain signals, past muscular failure, or past exhaustion. In other words, past all of the signals the body is sending for you to STOP making it do that damn thing and rest for a few minutes.
I like to lift with a high load, but never to failure. If I pace my workouts too quickly, or “superset” two exercises, I feel the effects for (sometimes) days afterwards. No way will I do something like crossfit.
But like Matt, I sit too much. Need to take more walks!
Aw man, nothing gets me happier than a nice 30 min swim in the pool (lake in summer) at a moderate speed. I also tried the HIT thing, the full sprint thing on the bike, but I could only make it to 3 sprints, crash on the couch and see stars for about 10 minutes. Then, I’d be pooped for the next few days. I also tried the Nike training app, for those with iPhones, and could not keep that up either. Way too exhausting, at least for now. I settled at a comfy medium of 30-45 min swims a few times a week, getting out of the pool feeling great, with a couple of bodyweight routines a week that never even last up to 10 mins. I’d love to walk/run a little if I didn’t have shin splints. The whole work out at high intensity every week and lose all your extra weight sounded awesome, But I don’t know if it’s more effective than just plain old exercise, whatever the source. I really love doing a few laps full intensity, but cannot do more than just a few of those without draining myself excessively.
I really like the NIke Training Club app, but I do it only once a week for 30 minutes. It’s a good challenge for me.
Good post! I too have come full circle. I was trying to do Crossfit style workouts and sprinting on treadmill where I’d run hard for 1 min then walk for 1 min. After 4 cycles of that I was toasted for several days. Like I mean fried. Now my knee hurts. So back to low intensity swimming, cycling, and running when knee gets better, and regular weight training. I was much more fit when it was simple for 30-45 min. I’d run 30 min one day, then lift weights the next, then do over. Usually off on the weekends. I feel much better and sleep great on low intensity. I’ve NEVER felt good after high intensity stuff.
Yay! I hate high intensity exercise and get kinda angry after doing it. I much prefer to take my dogs for a walk in the sunshine.
HIT should be done until the moment when you can’t do another rep IN GOOD FORM.
I live with 3 people who all try new things, do either crossfit or conventional bodybuilding and 2 of them told me today that I look bigger than month ago when they last saw me.
Pretty good for 2*20 minutes/week.
If HIT leaves you drained for more than 15 minutes after exercise, you do too much volume, or use unnecessary techniques that increase intensity.
I personally feel great after this kind of exercise. It’s a paradox, but last time I slightly injured myself was when I was sprinting to the bus after hours of sitting at the lecture.
I think low intensity activities are good, but honestly, you can’t expect dramatic body composition/conditioning changes using just those.
I think you have to pair low intensity with weight/strength training. My best shape was when I was running (jogging really, because I am slow) 45-50 min and doing a very basic strength routine 5x per week alternating upper and lower body, and following Body for Life (gotta love the 80’s). But of course I was a lot younger then. I think that it has to be just intense enough, if that makes sense. And it doesn’t have to be balls to the walls every single time. With the treadmill intervals that were killing me, the fact of the matter is that I was running at a much higher rate than I would if I were outside sprinting for the same amount of time, so I’m sure that has something to do with it being a total wipeout.
Before I was injured, the only deliberate exercise I did was Callanetics. This is excellent for developing posture, strength, balance and flexibility. The exercises look simple, but are not and most importantly are to be done consciously, that is with your full attention. I think that this is very important but overlooked. The sessions would be challenging and by working within my limitations, I would progress fast. I always felt great and like slow dancing after a session. Soon I will be doing phisio, which will lead me back into Cals again.
I love to walk a lot, but it is not for exercise. I walk for blue sky, fresh air and to literally smell the roses. In particular, I need the walk to stretch my eyes after having them fixed on a screen in front of me all day. For the past month, I have been walking again, even though I am in pain as I just need to get out. The pain is not a “do not do this” type of pain, so I am getting benefit from this.
I never was part of the paleo community, but I heard snippets here and there about the exercise humans were supposed to be doing. I wondered just what low intensity exercise means. Some of my walks feaure very steep hills. I found it all confusing, as I thought that “Grok” would have been moving about all day, not just an intense burst, then lying about. When I go camping, I am busy moving around as there is so much to be done that modern people take for granted and this while being spoilt with camping equipment. Just walking to the shops and back is a half hour stroll for most people.
Pink: “Some of my walks feaure very steep hills. I found it all confusing, as I thought that ?Grok? would have been moving about all day, not just an intense burst, then lying about.”
“Grok” is just a marketing gimmick. The Paleo people romanticize our distant
ancestors because they have the luxury of living in a modern, industrialized society that allows them to buy meat and plants that someone else raised and grew. Our ancestors–no matter what part of the world they lived–had to work hard to find food most of the time. They had to compete with all the other animals for both animals and plants; they were predator and prey at the same time. And they had to deal with rotten weather which affected the available plants and animals. Average life expectancy 50,000 years ago was probably no more than 30 in most places and they must have had a ridiculously high infant mortality rate.
The funny thing is, it is agriculture and industrialization that is enabling Paleo guys like Mark Sisson to sit on their behinds most of the day, earning ton loads of money selling books and protein powder while complaining about how terrible life is today compared to a million years ago. The Paleo people need to move to a jungle somewhere in Africa, Asia or South America and put their wonderful Paleo principles into action. Or they should move way up north and hunt seal, walrus and polar bear. Omega-3 fatty acids are wonderful when all you have to do is go to the store to buy wild-caught salmon or order fish oil online (someone needs to tell those guys that the internet is NOT Paleo). Those pampered guys wouldn’t last one day living on their own in a natural environment.
(from Real Genius) Prof. Hathaway – “Chris, I want to see more of you in the lab”
Chris Knight – “Ok, I’ll gain weight”
or Chris “What about that time we found you naked with bowl of jello”
Kent “I was hot and I was hungry”
“Smart people on ice!”
Chris Knight would totally be all about eating the food. Can you imagine him doing HIT?
I could see him doing high-intensity Cha Cha. But I am concerned his metabolism was a little low. Even when the weather appeared to be perfectly warm he was still having to wear heavily insulated footwear. He did share some thoughts on nutrition as well. Seems he had some theories about cheeseburgers and natural breast enlargement. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfvt6uhS0Bg
Ah yes, just take a step back… now take a step forward.
That scene shows his libido was rockin. So maybe the bunny slippers were merely a fashion statement, and not a sign of chilly toes.
Would you please lose that fricking Social Slider? Hate that thing! As annoying as a mosquito.
Long time, no see…sorry for the long hiatus but I don’t have time for anything anymore LOL! I saw this on Facebook and had to comment. Saying that high intensity should be done instead of low intensity is like saying that protein should be eaten rather than carbs (not that that was the gist of the article). Both types of exercise have their own benefits. A good combo of each will yield the best result. Although high intensity will yield better results in fitness and fat loss, too much (and it doesn’t take much to reach too much) will result in poor sleep and impaired immune function. And while low intensity is a far second in fitness and fat loss, it improves immune system function. In my opinion, high intensity exercise needs to be sprinkled here and there with the majority of the time a more moderate intensity exercise employed for your health. Overtraining in intensity will result in poor sleep while overtraining in volume will make you tired all the time…a nice and easy barometer of what is going on. The approach I take is my 3x per week weight training in a heavy/light/medium program, with a little daily work in the morning, and everything else just keeping the body moving. I have a desk job and work from home, so every hour or so I do a minute or two of jumping jacks or split jacks just to get my heart rate up. I do this maybe 1 to 3x per day in addition to my morning and lunchtime workouts. Don’t do one instead of the other; rather, combine the two with a proper ratio; just as a recipe with 3 pounds of beef with a teaspoon of salt isn’t going to yield the same result as 3 pounds of salt and a teaspoon of beef. I started looking into this when I first read about the higher incidence of cardiovascular disease related to a sedentary job, even if you work out at lunch time. I even set up my nordic track and keyboard so I could work while walking, LOL! I didn’t lose a pound walking an additional 5 or 6 hours per day for 2 weeks, but that is not the result of that type of exercise. I overtrained doing rack pulls with around 400 pounds for 17 sets of 3 reps…geez I was sore the next day…which then turned from soreness to bodyaches…I wound up sick for almost a month. Should heavy, high intensity exercise be avoided? NO! It needs to be properly dosed. We can’t take an either/or approach…it needs a more holistic view. Just a quick rant. :-)
Thanks for all you do Matt!!!
The REAL Will
Because my A1C is not optimal (5.5), I have followed the theories of Dr. Richard Bernstein and Ron Rosedale. They are very anti fructose and starch.Phinney and Volek wrote a book about low carb living. They like the high fat, adequate protein, low carb diet. So what is a prediabetic or diabetic type 2 to do? I eat a sweet potato and check my sugar..yes..it does rise higher than I would like.
BTW..I failed to mention that by eating higher fat/low carb, I did manage to get my A1C from 5.9 to 5.5 in about 2 years. I have been doing Peak 8 about 2x a week for about 3 years and I’ve been weightlifting for 30 years. My concern is that my last TSH was 5.08, My DHEA dropped considerably in a years time. My morning temps vary. Sometimes 97.4 to 97.8. I eat sea vegetables for the minerals and iodine, but some say it’s bad for the thyroid. My antibody test for Hashis was 7..jumped up 2 points from 6 months prior.
My lifting routine was the “slow workout”. I guess that is considered high intensity (Dr. Bernstein swears by it). Then I will switch over to heavy lifting, low reps and I got progressively strong. I’m trying to put on more muscle. I’m 5’3, now weigh 118 which is an 8 lb gain from when I was doing intermittent fasting. I still fast 16 hours and do all my exercise in the AM on an empty stomach. It feels better that way. Is this wrong? I am sorry to bog you down with so many questions, but I’m thorougly confused, Matt, as you once were.
I did a lot of high intensity aerobics in the 80s, beginning in 1987 actually. Ugh, looking back, I wonder what we were all thinking. But actually, it was an era of supreme cluelessness. You needed to work out, just to cope.
I didn’t work out much from mid 90s till mid 2000s, other than a brief stint at the gym which like, totally bored me. In 2011 did a round of high-intensity PX90 type exercise for 4-5 months in 2011 and had to stop; it was just too much. Actually, it was a great workout, but so unhealthy (my lungs have probably never been that chafed), and after a few weeks not even that effective.
Last year I did a shorter 25 minute work out with weight circuits, burpees, etc. At the beginning of this year I realized there was no way I could continue; even though I can do it, I just can’t stand breathless exercise.
It seems we’re in some kind of weird fitness renaissance, what with all the interest in things like Barry’s Bootcamp and Crossfit (as idiotic as any group exercise trend ever, and so dangerous), when there is little evidence that it has anything to do with weight loss. If people could admit that we’d all be a lot better off.
Lately I’ve been doing yoga, Pilates and walking. Actually, I’ve been walking an hour a day for many years, but never thought I would do stretching-type mind body exercise regularly. I have, and really feel good.
so…spazzercize is out?
Not necessarily. Just adding lower intensity exercise to the menu of exercise options. Some people do much better with easier stuff. Some much better with short and intense activity.
I agree with this blog. Every time I used to do group exercises at the gym, I felt the need to be leveled with the rest of the class. I pushed myself to the max, the next day I was sore and I didnt return to the gym in days, sometimes weeks or months. During that time, after recovery I tried to exercise at home( lightweight exercises, yoga, dancing, cleaning the house) and then I started feeling better. I decided that when back at the gym I would go at my own pace in the group exercises, I would lift lighter weights if I wanted to, I will stop when I needed to and I would work alone when my energy level was not optimal or just go for a walk. I find myself doing more physical activities everyday now that doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym.
matt, when yu go to sleep are in in pitch lack darkness? and when you wake up are you in pitch black darkness?