October 26th, 2020

Training Matters: Mixed messages come and go, but exercise is exercise

By None on July 27, 2018.

I’m not sure if I’m just getting old, or if it’s because I’ve been in this industry for 25 years, but I find I have less and less patience with the mixed messages that the fitness industry puts out there.

I don’t think that the movers and shakers realize how frustrating it is for Joe and Jane Average to discern what is the right thing to do, when there are so many mixed messages that we publicly dispute. Paralysis by analysis sets in and people who would otherwise make a choice to be healthier sit back down and simply don’t move.

One that continues to confuse people is the anti-stretching lobby. If you listen they will tell you that stretching is a waste of time. I have to remind myself that not everyone who forms these opinions has worked on the gym floor. Trainers see first-hand on a daily basis the benefits of stretching as clients with back pain, knee injury, hip surgery and others see increased mobility, improved quality of life, and recovery of their ability to move.

For 2,000 years yoga instructors have witnessed and advocate the value of stretching. Many of my favourite local therapists assign specific stretches and mobility moves to help people out of pain. I trained a delightful baby boomer the other day who has some general tightness issues and she couldn’t help but exude how great stretching made her feel. So it feels great, connects us to our body in an energizing way, heals injury, helps restore suppleness and costs nothing but a little time.

Yet there is still a loud anti-status quo group out there, I assume trying to make a name for themselves, muddying the waters arguing that because we don’t know whether we are stretching a muscle, mobilizing a joint, or lengthening the connective tissue as a whole we shouldn’t do it. They argue whether it should be a dynamic stretch with movement, a static stretch held for time, or a manual stretch with resistance.

I’m pretty sure the guy who I showed a static hip flexor stretch as well as a couple dynamic hip mobility moves doesn’t give a hoot. He just knows that his back and hip haven’t felt this good in years, or so he tells me. Hey if you don’t want to stretch, go for it, tighten up to your hearts content, but please stop telling other people not to: you are doing them a disservice.

Speaking of a disservice the high intensity interval training lobby is well established now. It is generally accepted that short-duration, higher-intensity exercise holds vast benefits. So it is probably time to stop spreading the short-sighted message that low-intensity exercise is a waste of time. Stop trying to build up your argument up by putting down the other side.

The vast benefits of low- to moderate-intensity exercise are irrefutable. This is the exercise prescription that has worked for decades, yet high-intensity advocates make it sound like going for a half-hour walk or an hour’s hike in the hills has virtually no benefit.

Informed programs will almost always include some of both types, because at the end of the day it is all good, the human body thrives with low and high intensity training. The breakdown of how much of each depends on the current level of functioning, personal preferences, time available, and other considerations. In general lower intensity makes the most sense for people unaccustomed to exercise while high intensity applies to seasoned veterans — but elements of each can fit well with both groups.

Stop thinking black and white, right and wrong, just start moving! Drop me a line if you are confused.

Ed Stiles BPE Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre, he can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca or ed1sti@medicinehat.ca.

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