Exercise is good!

A non exercising acquaintance recently handed me a copy of a Gifford Jones article “Lions Don’t Buy Nike Running Shoes” (MH News May 25) as defense for his less than active lifestyle. I feel a few points need clarification.

Essentially Doctor Jones says that adult lions have it all figured out as exercise is not high on their priority list… they lay around or sleep and survive well without ever buying running shoes. He gives an example of a 60 year old client with a personal trainer who pushed her too hard and she ended up injured, “at her age she wasn’t meant to be a weight lifter”.

The doc goes on to give examples of high level athletes with multiple joint issues, bone density trouble, even cardiac muscle scarring… “My mother entered her 94th year without ever running one block or doing one push- up”.

What’s up Doc? Trying to drum up more clientele by getting people to stop moving? The obesity epidemic not rolling along fast enough?

Here’s hoping most readers recognized that the examples given were at the extreme end of the spectrum and haven’t given away all their spandex and Nikes just yet.

I agree that elite athletes push the limit between health and performance and are not physical specimens at the ends of their careers because to reach their goals they often end up sacrificing their health. Not to mention that the ballistic, explosive, contact nature of many sports makes injury an almost inevitable consequence of participation.

I also know that the joy and positive feelings many people experience through sport and working out can cause them to go too far and do too much. And yes, admittedly some of us personal trainer types get caught up in the more is better approach and mistake groans of agony with cries of bliss.

However there is more irrefutable evidence pointing to the benefits of appropriate exercise than Doc Gifford’s genetically gifted mom could read in 94 years. Mankind is an animal that is designed for movement. Every organ and system of the body benefits when we choose an appropriate exercise routine. When concepts like listening to your body, moderation, balance, variety, and functional movements are the foundation for that program the benefits are infinite.

And herein lies the rub. How many people actually embrace that last sentence? Certainly none of the the doc’s examples. Balance? Moderation? “All or nothing, quick fixes, if some is good then more is better”… these are the foundations that most people embrace in their short workout careers.

Sorry Doc please don’t tell people its Ok to lay around like Simba, who by the way exercised a ton as a child so he could catch his prey. Some better messages might be; Moderate exercise is becoming more and more important as technology limits our daily activity levels. The health-athleticism spectrum is a bell curve: doing too much will make your health suffer and doing too little will do the same, oh and even though they are an entirely different species and shouldn’t need Nike’s in the first place A Lions’s Pride isn’t built in a day!

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Center’s Performance Enhancement Team and operates Peak Performance Fitness Services. He can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca or at peakperform@hotmail.com.