Fitness and Health
Being fit and being healthy are not synonymous.
Depending upon the type of exercise you do, you can attain both fitness and health or you can deplete your body and become vulnerable to a host of chronic, inflammatory and degenerative diseases.
Take another look at the picture above.
Who looks healthier?
What’s the difference between the types of exercise each of those individuals performs?
How much time do you think each person spends exercising?
How does the way each of those individuals exercises affect their hormones?
How do hormones affect your health?
Traditional endurance training has been shown to have the following effects:
1. Raises Long-Term Cortisol and Accelerates Aging
Higher weekly training volume appears to be related to higher relative cortisol levels.
Chronically elevated cortisol causes the body to store fat rather than burn it. In addition, it also increases levels of oxidative substances throughout the body leading to cellular damage. It can accelerate the aging process.
Strength-based training protocols differ from volume-based aerobic protocols, because this type of exercise releases anabolic hormones which act as a counterbalance to the cortisol and other oxidative substances.
2. Causes Chronic Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Strenuous aerobic exercise leads to an increase in free radicals, damage to lipids and DNA , and decreased blood measurements of antioxidants such as glutathione.
Some studies have shown that marathoner’s levels of oxidative stress markers were twice as great as those of sprinters.
3. Decreases Reproductive Size and Function and Reduces Androgenic Hormones
In a study looking at exercise and androgens (sex hormones), researchers found the exercise group had a significant decrease in the size of the reproductive organs (testes and accessory sex organs) and lower levels of testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and related androgen markers.
4. Compromises Immune System
There is evidence that aerobic training leads to immune suppression, putting aerobic endurance athletes at greater risk for infection, particularly upper respiratory illness.
The worst kind of aerobic exercise that leads to the most pronounced immune dysfunction is when the exercise is continuous, long (about 90 minutes a session), and of moderate to high intensity (60-80 percent of maximal oxygen uptake).
More Effects if Cortisol
- Facilitates the conversion of protein in muscles and connective tissue into glucose and glycogen for energy.
- Progressive loss of protein, muscle weakness and atrophy, and loss of bone mass.
- Decrease the utilization of glucose by cells by directly inhibiting glucose transport into the cells.
- Decreases in insulin sensitivity.
- With the amount of stress that runners place on their bodies, they have high levels of free radicals as well as cortisol. Excess cortisol can also adversely affect tendon health.
- Chronic Cortisol production causes a redistribution of body fat to occur e.g. the extremities lose fat and muscle while the trunk and face become fatter.
High-intensity and strength-based protocols have been shown to have the following effects:
1. Aerobic benefits
Taxes both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems almost maximally, therefore having greater effects on conditioning and potentially athletic performance.
2. Metabolic benefits
Long aerobic workouts have been promoted as the best method to reduce fat, as fatty acid utilization usually occurs after at least 30 minutes of training.
Higher Intensity/strength based interval training has been shown to burn fat more effectively.
There may be a number of factors that contribute to this, including an increase in resting metabolic rate.
This form of exercise also significantly lowers insulin resistance and causes skeletal muscle adaptations that result in enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation (reductions in body fat) and improved glucose tolerance, making this a viable method for prevention of type-2 diabetes.
3. Cardiovascular disease
Brief, intense exercise has been shown to improve CVD risk factors.
There are many reasons that people choose to exercise. I like to consider the pneumonic FITTE when counseling someone about exercise.
I am not saying don’t do endurance exercise. If you enjoy running, go for a run. But if you are looking for optimum health, weight loss, longevity or fitness, the research points to more effective means.