Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER      

How Fast Do You Lose Fitness When You Stop Exercising?

A review of 31 published studies found that the COVID-19 epidemic has forced many people to stop exercising, which will increase their risk for several diseases that can shorten their lives. COVID-19 is caught mainly by breathing indoor air where people congregate, so the epidemic stopped many people from going to gyms or practicing sports indoors.

Elastic Resistance Bands Can Make You As Strong As Lifting Weights

Scientists reviewed studies on elastic resistance bands, and concluded that strength training with elastic bands could cause the same gain in strength as lifting heavy weights for both the upper and the lower body. Training in the studies ranged from 2-5 times a week for 4-12 weeks.

Basic Resistance Band Training

Start your introduction to resistance band training by first reading a prior article on this site about resistance training. The same principles apply but now the implement is resistance bands and not free weights or machines. And, resistance bands can be an effective implement with the added benefits of low cost, convenience, and the ability to resistance train virtually anywhere at any time.

Both Lifting Weights and Exercising Intensely Help to Prolong Lives

Scientific studies firmly establish that a regular exercise program can help to prolong your life. Recent studies show that older adults who lift weights are up to 22 percent less likely to die from any cause, heart attacks or cancer than people who do not lift weights. Those who both lift weights and participate in an aerobic exercise program had the lowest death risk of all.

Keep On Moving to Prolong Your Life

People who walked at least 8,000 steps per day just one or two days a week had a 15 percent lower death rate over the next 10 years, when compared to people who walked less than that. People who had 3-7 days with 8,000 steps or more had an additional reduction in death rate. This suggests that moving around helps to prolong your life, even if you don’t have an organized exercise program.

Time-Restricted Eating for Serious Exercisers

Several recent research papers have found that time-restricted eating can help to prevent diabetes and heart attacks and prolong life. However, some people express concern that athletes and regular exercisers may develop low blood sugar and lose muscle if they go on a schedule of not eating for intermittent periods such as 6PM to 6AM. An exciting study now shows that time-restricted eating can improve health in serious athletes and may even help them to improve running performance by helping them to lose excess body fat.

Physical Activity to Help Prevent Diseases and Dementia

Three recent studies show that being active and moving about helps to prolong life and to prevent disease, hospitalization, and dementia. A study of 81,717 men and women, 42-78 years of age, measured their physical activity by having them wear an accelerometer for a week at a time over an average of 6.8 years. Those who increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by 20 minutes per day were at reduced incidence of hospitalization for nine of the 25 most common reasons for hospitalization.

Exercise to Help Prevent Infections

Regular exercise can potentially help to protect you from infections such as COVID-19, as long as you don’t exercise too much. In one study, compared to people who did not exercise regularly, those who exercised had a reduced risk of becoming infected by COVID-19. They had a 36 percent reduced risk of hospitalization from severe COVID-19 and a 43 percent reduced risk of death from COVID-19. Those who followed guidelines recommending at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week gained the most protection against COVID-19, but exercising regularly at less than that appeared also to help protect against infection.

Weak Muscles Predict Accelerated Aging, Disability and Death

A study of 1,275 men and women found that those who had very weak handgrip strength had signs of accelerated aging, as measured by deterioration of the DNA in their cells. The authors of this study cited earlier studies showing that grip strength appears to be a better predictor of life expectancy than blood pressure. Many other studies show that having weak muscles is associated with a host of diseases and premature death.

Benefit from a Few Minutes of Vigorous Activity Each Day

You may be able to prolong your life just by moving more vigorously a few times a day. Australian researchers found that non-exercisers who had 3-4 short bouts of vigorous activity each day had a 40 percent reduction in all-cause death rate, a 40 percent reduction in cancer-related deaths, and up to a 49 percent reduction in heart attack deaths.

Exercising in Cold Weather

Cold weather is associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks. The majority of cold weather deaths are associated with elevated blood pressure and increased clotting to cause heart attacks and strokes. If you have heart or lung disease, you are far more likely to die in cold weather than in the heat. Even a short-term drop in air temperature in the tropics is associated with increased heart attack risk

Lack of Exercise is Worse Than Prolonged Sitting

A recent study followed 105,677 participants from 21 countries for an average of 11 years, and found that those who sat for 6-8 hours a day had a 13 percent increased risk for early death and heart disease, while those who sat for more than eight hours a day had a 20 percent increased risk. Furthermore, those who sat the most and exercised the least had a 50 percent increased risk, while those who sat the most and exercised the most had only a 17 per cent increased risk.

Eating Carbohydrates Before Lifting Weights Can Help You Lift Heavier Weights

It is well known that taking carbohydrates before and during endurance exercise helps to increase both speed and endurance. It is not as well known that taking carbohydrates before and during resistance training for strength can increase intensity and duration of workouts. A review of 21 randomized controlled studies that included 226 young adults found that taking carbohydrates before or during lifting weights increased training volume, and caused higher peak blood lactic acid and sugar levels

Second Wind

Second wind means that when you run very fast, you reach a point where you gasp for breath and your muscles burn so much that you feel like you have to slow down, but you try to keep on pushing. After several seconds, you feel recovered and pick up the pace.

Keep Your Muscles Strong As You Age

A review of 16 major studies found that just thirty minutes a week of strength training is associated with up to a 20 percent reduced risk for dying from any cause, or from cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Adding aerobic exercise reduced risk for dying by 40 percent. The World Health Organization recommends at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities for adults because having larger and stronger muscles appears to help prevent many diseases and prolong lives.

Being Physically Active Helps to Prevent Heart Attacks and Some Cancers

A prospective study of 78,500 men and women, ages 40-79, used wrist accelerometers to see whether daily step counts and measurements of intensity would predict future heart attacks or cancers. They were followed for an average of seven years, and during that period, there were 10,245 heart attacks, 664 deaths from heart attacks, 2813 cancers and 1325 deaths from cancer.

Late Afternoon Exercise Helps to Control Blood Sugar, Cholesterol and Triglycerides

A study from Japan found that exercising in the late afternoon (4-6 PM) helps to control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels better than exercising in the morning (9-11 AM).

Physical Activity and Longevity

Four interesting studies supporting the benefits of physical activity have appeared in recent medical journals.

Don’t Straighten Your Knees While Running or Cycling

Always try to keep at least a slight bend in your knee when you run or ride a bicycle. When you run, you are supposed to land on each foot with a partially-bent knee. Otherwise you transmit the shock of your foot hitting the ground directly onto your knees, hips and back. Straightening your knees when you pedal markedly increases risk for knee pain by increasing the force on your joints.

Weekend Warriors Gain Full Benefit From Their Exercise

A recent study found no significant difference in death rates between adults who exercised once or twice a week versus three or more times a week, as long as they exercised moderately for a total of 150 minutes or vigorously for 75 minutes per week. This study followed 350,978 U.S. adults for more than 10 years. The participants reported their activity levels and were divided into an active group and an inactive group.

All Exercise is Good, and Vigorous Exercise is Better

An analysis of more than 36,861 deaths in a study of 403,681 participants found that the greater proportion of vigorous exercise to total exercise, the less likely a person was to die, die from a heart attack, or die from cancer during the 10 study years. The U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines recommend trying to exercise for 150 minutes a week for optimal health, and  this study showed that compared to people who do not exercise that much, people who exercise 150 minutes or more each week are 15 percent less likely to die, 23 percent less likely to suffer heart disease and 12 percent less likely to develop a cancer.

Eat and Sleep to Recover from Intense Exercise

Top endurance athletes use hydration, nutrition, and sleep to help them recover from intense exercise. When you exercise for endurance, you use up glycogen, the sugar that is stored for energy in your muscles, and you damage muscle fibers.

Exercise to Reduce Muscle Loss and Inflammation

Women and men who exercise regularly have larger and stronger hearts, and greater endurance and strength, than those who do not exercise regularly. Their muscles are stronger and more coordinated.  We can all expect to become weaker as we age, but you can markedly delay this inevitable loss of muscle strength by having a regular exercise program and following the same anti-inflammatory lifestyle rules that are recommended to help prevent heart attacks, arthritis and many other diseases. 

Resistance Exercise Becomes Even More Important As You Age

Recent studies suggest that lifting weights can help to prolong your life. An analysis of 16 studies including almost 480,000 people, 18 to 98 years of age, found that those who spent 30 to 60 minutes per week in strength training had a 40 percent lower risk of premature death, 46 percent lower risk of heart disease, and 28 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

All Exercisers Can Benefit from Elite Training Methods

You will gain the most benefits from your exercise program if you follow the “stress and recover” training principles that competitive athletes use. A study using accelerometers to measure the physical activity of more than 90,000 healthy people over six years found that the more and harder they exercised, the less likely they were to suffer heart disease.

Can Intense Exercise Increase Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

The American Heart Association has cautioned that, "Exercise, particularly when performed by unfit individuals, can acutely increase the risk of sudden cardiac death and acute myocardial infarction in susceptible people." However, a recent review of 48 research articles found no reduction in lifespan, no matter how much a person exercises

Cancer Patients Benefit From Exercise

Exercise is recommended as part of the treatment for cancer by the American College of Sports Medicine, American Society of Clinical Oncology, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, American Cancer Society, Oncology Nursing Society, the Commission on Cancer, and the Cancer Foundation For Life. A regular exercise program reduces carcinogenic inflammation, strengthens the immune system, and improves mental processing.

Flat Feet, Pigeon Toes and Bow Legs

Many of the world's great sprinters have flat feet. In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Bob Hayes tied the world record when he won the 100 meter dash, and five days later, he ran the anchor leg in the finals of the Olympic 400 meter relay. He took the baton with the US team in fifth place and he passed Jamaica, then Russia, then Poland and then France to run his 100 meters in an incredible 8.6 seconds, the fastest of all time.

Exercisers Should Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

Exercise helps to prevent heart attacks, but exercise does not prevent plaques from forming in arteries. What you eat is far more important in determining how much plaque you have in your arteries, so even competitive master athletes should follow a heart-healthy diet. A recent study showed that lifelong male athletes older than 40 had increased markers that doctors use to predict a future heart attack.

Benefits of Exercising for Both Endurance and Strength

A systematic review of 18 studies found that combining aerobic exercise such as running, walking and cycling with resistance strength training helps older people to be more active and less likely to fall and hurt themselves, compared to those who did just aerobic or strength training alone. They become stronger, more coordinated, and have greater balance.