Some Quick Links About Health and Fitness

29 May 2013 · 13 comments

Lately, I’ve been collecting links faster than I can share them. This is a quick post about some of the fitness stuff I’ve found.

The Seven-Minute Workout

For instance, at the New York Times wellness blog, Gretchen Reynolds shared what she calls “the scientific seven-minute workout“. This series of twelve body-weight exercises — taken from a scientific article — can be done almost anywhere (all you need are a wall and a chair). Here’s the graphic from the NYT article:

Exercises for seven-minute workout

The key is to do these at high intensity (an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10) and to not rest between exercise. In other words, it should be seven minutes of suffering.

In essence, that’s the same philosophy behind Crossfit. You do a bunch of work, and you do it fast. This set of exercises is nice, though, because it covers a wide range of muscle groups without any special equipment.

One web developer created a web-based seven-minute workout timer that tells you which exercise you’re on, counts down the time, and then gives you ten seconds to move to the next one. Pretty slick.

Scrawny to Brawny

Elsewhere, Tim Ferriss shared a story about how to lose 20-30 pounds in five days — and then gain it back. It’s not really useful to anyone outside competitive fighters, I think, but it’s still interesting.

I can’t believe I’m going to admit this publicly, but the Tim Ferriss article led me to a blog called Scrawny to Brawny, which is about building muscle. I subscribed. You know what? It’s actually a damn fine blog filled with practical advice on more than just weightlifting.

For instance, I love this piece on becoming the most interesting man in the world. The author writes that interesting men (and by extension, interesting women) become interesting by doing lots of stuff. And that alters how they talk about life.

The author illustrates his argument with this clip from the film Good Will Hunting:

His point? To become interesting, you need to stop talking and start doing. He writes: “Things like love, fear, sadness, joy, struggle, triumph and loss all have to be tasted and fully experienced to be understood.” By doing more, you’ll shift your frame of reference and expand your vocabulary.

Human experience exists on a continuum. The degree to which you’ve experienced something will determine your frame of reference when you’re using that word.

The Tragedy of the Healthy Eater

Finally, Kris pointed me to a blog post about the tragedy of the healthy eater. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it makes a great point.

Healthy eating used to be simple. Now, though, everyone has an opinion about what is and is not healthy. There internet allows fad diets to spread like wildfire. Last week, dairy was evil! This week everyone is gluten intolerant! Next week, vegetables will be the cause of all evil!

I’m exaggerating, of course, but there’s a grain of truth there. When it comes to health, people are after magic bullets — just as with money. But there aren’t any magic bullets. Except for those rare few who truly have a problem with gluten, I’ve never seen anyone markedly improve their health by removing whole grains from their diet. And paleo? Don’t get me started. There are stacks of scientific studies that demonstrate a plant-based diet is correlated with health and long life; the paleo stuff is mostly fabricated out of fantasy.

My own solution is to pay attention to the research, and to know my own body. Yes, I mostly eat paleo (despite the fact I think the arguments for it are silly), but I’m very aware that if I ate more fruits and veggies, I’d be doing myself a favor.

1 Craig Anthony May 29, 2013 at 14:17

Great post. Oddly enough I had seen that workout somewhere and was looking for it again. Now I can give it a shot.

And I love that the “becoming the most interesting man in the world” post mentions Joe Simpson. His story is incredible. Anyone can see it on YouTube – search “Touching the Void”.

2 Nate Green May 29, 2013 at 15:55

Hey JD –

Thanks for the shout-out; I’m a big fan of the blog and am glad you enjoyed the articles. Just sent you an email, too.

Cheers,
-Nate

3 jdroth May 29, 2013 at 18:32

Nate sent me an email with a link to a great article at one of his sites. It’s about determining what is the best diet. (Short version: There isn’t one!) Nate, I’m hooked on your sites!

4 April May 29, 2013 at 17:11

I’ve done that 7-minute routine several times!

Annnd of course now I’ve gotta mention my own opinion on what’s healthy… ;)

I mostly follow the plan in this book: http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/?page_id=1296

It basically says to eat small amounts of quality meat and lots of fats and vegetables. Dairy is fine, but should be from grass-fed cows. No grains or sugar. I think the author’s sources are well-documented and it makes a lot of sense…there doesn’t seem to be any reason we need grains or sugar. Her argument goes along with the message in the documentary Fat Head, which I also liked a lot.

She does say we should have zero gluten or sugar in our diets, but I eat those things a few times a week. Also, I drink coffee, another no-no.

I like eating healthy and even reworking recipes to exclude flour and sugar. I think it’s fun. But I’ve gone 100% on so many “healthy eating plans” that I’ve decided I won’t make anything totally off-limits. Like when I was a vegetarian, and I turned down fajitas at my husband’s family reunion in Mexico. I just don’t want to beat myself up about food anymore. And I realized that I eat less high-carb, sugary foods with this mindset…

5 lake livin' May 29, 2013 at 18:03

Another great site is fitness-solution.blogspot.com. They post a new 20 minute workout each day requiring little to no equipment. They also provide variations for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

6 Matt Henderson May 30, 2013 at 00:15

Hi JD,

I’d recommend maybe giving paleo another look, and begin by reading Taubes, “Why we get fat.” That’s the more accessible follow-up to his “Good calories. Bad calories.”

The paleo diet has been transformational in my own life, and those of many others.

http://hivelogic.com/articles/the-paleo-diet-a-link-primer

About a month ago, my wife needed to have a thorough blood analysis done. The results were so good, that the doctor called her in to learn more about her diet. The doctor smiled when she mentioned paleo, saying her and her husband also both eat paleo. She hoped that the information about paleo would become more widespread here in Spain before too long.

7 jdroth May 30, 2013 at 07:55

I’m not a fan of Taubes. In my opinion, he’s exactly what’s wrong with the current arguments about diet. He aims his arguments (chief among them: “carbs make people fat”) at the American food establishment while ignoring (a) the rest of the world and (b) an entire body of scientific literature.

I won’t argue in favor of processed/refined carbs. It’s pretty clear those fuck you up. But fruit? Whole grains (except for the rare few who are gluten-sensitive)? These aren’t evil. In fact, most cultures around the world consume carb-heavy diets without obesity issues. It’s only when they’re exposed to American-style diets filled with processed carbs that problems occur. Taubes seems to miss this. He also seems to miss that there’s a wide body of evidence that supports the virtues of a plant-based diet.

As for paleo: As I said, my diet is primarily paleo. I eat it because it’s a way for me to stay healthy-ish and have food that I like. But I’m not going to argue it’s some sort of Holy Grail. In fact, the “science” behind paleo is even weaker than Taubes’ arguments. Because there isn’t any science behind it. A lot of it is wishful thinking. I got a kick out of a recent National Geographic article about a newly-found fossil of a paleolithic human. The scientists analyzed the stomach contents. Guess what? Lots of plant material (read: carbs)! Meat was a luxury in the paleo diet, not a staple. The same is true for most cultures around the world today. Generally, meat is a flavoring agent.

Can you tell I have strong opinions on this? ;)

8 Charlotte May 30, 2013 at 16:00

JD – Just like personal finance, do what works for you!

I like to read different ideas and research but mostly I listen to my body and eat what I need with occasional treats. (ok, maybe too many treats sometimes…lol!)

I just don’t like it when people believe that their diet is the only one that works and everyone should follow it. Worse, when they label themselves “I’m Paleo”, “I’m gluten-free” etc.

I’m Asian and eat a lot of carbs but am at my ideal weight. What I need is more exercise…

9 Charlotte May 30, 2013 at 16:03

As a general rule – I eat real food in moderation…

10 CB June 5, 2013 at 16:44

This conversation is so interesting to me!

My personal experience has been pretty much a carbon copy of what Matt Henderson reported – I read “Why We Get Fat” and decided to try it out. It has been 1.5 years and it pretty much changed my life.

I studied nutrition in university and the conventional knowledge just did not work for me. I did some research on Paelo and, while I agree that the claims behind it come off as pretty silly, I love the emphasis on real food and good quality food sources (especially for meat) so I follow a paleo-ish, lower carb-ish diet. (Basically: no grains or potatoes, favor high fat, etc.) Plus I find it easier to tell people I eat Paleo rather than saying I eat low carb – that way they don’t think that I avoid fruit or veggies!

But I will say, I DO NOT think that there is one diet for everyone and I always qualify with “it worked for my body, but yours might be different” when people ask me how I lost so much weight. I hope that in the long run it’s healthy, but I figure that if I look and feel good and am at my ideal weight, it’s probably a good sign that I’m doing something right.

11 Abby May 30, 2013 at 07:42

When I tell people that a grain-free, sugar-free, nightshade-free, low dairy diet works best for managing my autoimmune problems, their eyes glaze over. They usually wonder about what food to serve when I come over for dinner or they think I’m going to judge them for the way they eat or try to ‘convert’ them. I’ve finally figured out that if I do my own thing and keep my eating habits to myself, I am much happier and so is everyone around me.

12 Carla May 30, 2013 at 11:15

I stopped listening to mainstream advice about diet and health when I first realized back in 2005 that I am gluten intolerant – back when many doctors balked at the thought of someone not eating grains (gasp!). Though I’ve been Paleo on an off long before I knew it had a name, I keep my way of eating to myself unless I’m in the company of family or my Paleo Meetup group. ;)

The people who have known me for years swear I’ve taken at least 10 years off my life though my diet and fitness routine. I don’t even look like the same person. My naturopathic physician recommends the diet for those of us with auto-immune disorders and my neurologist is extremely impressed with my current state of health despite bowing out of taking disease modifying medications (for MS). I think I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. :)

13 mary w May 30, 2013 at 12:35

With regard to eating I think Michael Pollan says it best “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

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