Just The Facts Please: An Exercise in Achieving Optimal Health

09 Dec Just The Facts Please: An Exercise in Achieving Optimal Health

Exhilarating, energizing, empowering, inspiring, informing, and entertaining! The ‘Just the Facts Please: An Exercise in Achieving Optimal Health’ event (Dec 6) at the McMaster University Innovation Park ‘was truly a rare opportunity for the public to engage with McMaster’s leading exercise and health researchers together with some of North America’s highest profile health journalists and authors’. Lucky us–we were there to experience the moment.

How many times have we heard the overwhelming irrefutable facts pointing to the immeasurable health benefits we gain by moving our bodies? ‘We are born to move’. The Science is there: Exercise improves cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal and brain health. Too bad knowing the facts hasn’t been enough inspiration to get us off our couches.

For 3 engaging hours we were transformed as Steve Buist (long-time reporter with the Hamilton Spectator) moderated the stellar lineup of speakers: Timothy Caulfield (a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the UofAlberta), Martin Gibala (Professor of Kinesiology, McMaster), Stuart Phillips (Professor of Kinesiology, McMaster), Jennifer Heisz (Asst. Professor of Kinesiology, McMaster), Gretchen Reynolds (Writer and Phys Ed Columnist, New York Times), and André Picard (Health Reporter and Columnist, Globe and Mail).

HIIT: Not enough time to fit in exercise? Go with HIIT. Gibala reminds us that even though High Intensity Interval Training is the current buzzword of the workout world, HIIT is anything but new. Runners like Emile Zápotech (in 1952 won Olympic Gold running the 1st marathon of his life) and Roger Bannister (in 1954 broke 4-minute mile record) both trained exclusively using high intensity intervals. In the late 1950s Bill Orban designed the successful 5BX Plan (11 minutes of Five Basic Exercises) for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). What’s new is that Gibala’s research now provides the science of how time-efficient HIIT impacts our molecular fuel gauge.

Activity Snacks: 3 x 10-minute bursts of exercise throughout the day are highly effective re improving cardiorespiratory fitness. Take stairs; fit in jumping jacks or burpees. Exercise spread throughout the day might even be more beneficial than an ‘all-at-once’ approach.

Strength Training: One small snippet from a research study–cancer mortality was lessened 30% by strength training alone. It is essential to make ourselves stronger. We need to add muscle and bone strengthening activities. Gym? Bring it home. Get those bands, a few home-based weights, and improvise. Use your own body weight doing push-ups & wall sits. Remember those stairs too.

Train for a Healthy Brain: No you can’t change your genes but lifestyle plays a big role in diminishing our risk of dementia. Note: you need to be routinely active and engaged to get the brain health benefits.

Make a Plan: The Plan Group stuck to it longer and more consistently. The No-Plan Group did not do as well. What, when, where and with whom. Be sure to schedule it in.

Activity Matters: Move don’t sit. Apparently we tend to sit more on days we have exercised. Even marathon runners are guilty of sitting too much when they’re not on the run. Does your child’s school promote ‘activity-based’ learning? We need to stop being so risk-adverse and let kids play outside, walk to school. Maybe ensure that new roads are always built with sidewalks and/or bike paths alongside.

Beware of Science-y Language: Caulfield pointed out how Twisted Science impacts our health attitudes and behaviours. Science-y Language is used to confuse us and erode critical thinking. Sadly even one exposure to Gwyneth-Paltrow-type false & misleading info can cause us to start believing the ‘fake news’. Folks are dishing out millions for ‘O-Shots’,  Stem-Cell Products, and a whack of other products. What does Caulfield advise? Don’t get fooled. Call it what it is–bunk. People need to complain.

Want to know more? You can find the archived video of the Just the Facts event here: Facebook.com/mcmasteruniversity Follow on Twitter. Read books.



How we respond to exercise will be very individual. ‘You are an ‘N’ of 1′ (We are all an experiment of one.) We are born to move. There is joy in it. All the best for finding your joy.

Cheerios, ~Linda

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