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Keep on Moving, Skinny Children, Super Slow and Exercise Machines - The Exercise Opportunity, Preventive Medicine Center

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Keep on Moving, Skinny Children, Super Slow and Exercise Machines - The Exercise Opportunity

By H. Robert Silverstein, M.D.

While you are in the check-out line of a grocery store, watch any bored-to-death 3 year old child waiting to leave. He/she acts like a jumping bean constantly moving, walking, crouching, doing whatever he/she can to entertain him/herself, just enough not to be a spankable nuisance. Mom keeps an eye on this child because that child is all over the place, not just standing there calmly the way you and I stand so motionless. This describes the concept of the "fidget factor" which is the number of little moves (“fidgets”) a person makes, that help you and I burn up calories--this is why that little child is so lean (from being so active all day and not from any “exercise” program). As we age, we become more patient, calmer, more “efficient,” and less fidgety. One literally has to put a mirror under our nose to see if we are still breathing - that is how motionless we are most of the time. This is what we incorrectly call a “change in my metabolism.” There is no change in metabolism, there are just fewer fidgets = less exercise.

Everything you and I do counts as exercise and helps get us in shape! What we really need is to keep moving like that child. If you get up from a chair and walk to the bathroom, that counts. The more turns, twists, flexing, stairs, jumps, and hops you and I do, the more that counts as exercise, increases our “fitness,” and reduces our weight. As we age and get heavier, it is virtually impossible to lose weight without some form of an exercise program. The more exercise you do, even if you are overweight, the closer you get to a phrase I do not particularly like, but is true: "fit and fat" as opposed to just "fat." For “a minute here and a minute there” of exercise, think about buying the Gaiam (brand) “Mini Stepper” with variable resistance ($99 at or telephone 877-989-6321).

Adam Zickerman's book, The Power of 10: The Once A Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution is on the right track, simpler, and more efficient than most recommendations. As we both say, one does not need to exercise every day to build muscle. Muscle burns far more calories than resting fat cells do. As a matter of fact, Zickerman makes the point that if you build 3 pounds of lean muscle that resting muscle has the same calorie-burning effect as running 15 miles a week! Since muscle burns many more calories than resting fat cells do, you end up burning more calories just sitting there being more muscular than if you did aerobic training or running! Yes, you have to do the exercise to build the lean muscle.

To build muscle, lift weights or use machines (importantly, machines force proper form) smoothly and very slowly to the count of 10 (ten seconds up and ten seconds down). Do not stop, go back the other direction slowly to the count of 10 (seconds), and keep doing this until your muscles are absolutely fatigued in about 6-8 repetitions (reps), not sets. Zickerman states that you only need to exercise 20 minutes every 5 or 7 days to obtain the real breakthrough of improved strength, muscle mass, and weight loss. In other words, it literally could be a once a week exercise program--exactly as he says. So far, my patients have found this to be true.

But let me ask you another question: how many exercise machines and programs are you aware of and which one is “right”? The answer is, they all are right, it doesn’t make any difference what you do, just do more in any fashion you can think of. But what about us couch potatoes? My suggestion is get off the couch, just stand there, and do any kind of little motion/exercise you can. It does not have to be graceful yoga. Put one leg in front of you, next put one leg behind you. Flex your arms and lift them up. It doesn’t matter whether you have 5 or 10 pound weights in your hands or not. Twist gently from side to side. Do everything gently, in any and every direction. Using heavy weights tends to cause jerking movements and can cause tendon/ligament damage.

Exercise is a critical part of health, exercise is an essential part of a weight loss program, and exercise can be both convenient and easy to do. While sitting in chairs of virtually any type, you can flex your butt and/or your legs. In the parking garage, walk up the ramp to the next floor so that you get in some climbing and when you got inside, walk down the stairs. Everybody knows the trick of parking as far away as possible; few do that. When you walk, push down on the ground and tense your chest, arm, and butt muscles. Move your head around, scrunch up your face. Do not look silly unless nobody is watching and then look as silly as you want--it is exercise! Just keep moving, just keep doing things, just keep concentrating on the exercise opportunity.

It was Socrates who said that the "unexamined life is not worth living." I slightly paraphrase that by saying if you do not examine what you are doing (and don’t do the right thing), you are not going to have a very long or healthy life to examine. The way life works, is that when we do things correctly with regard to diet, exercise, attitude, and so on, we are likely to live a very, very long time where nothing goes wrong or essentially nothing goes wrong health wise. Perhaps a rare cold, but most of the things that happen to us are because we set ourselves up to get knocked down by virtue of what we have done wrong. If you do not like what is happening to you or want to avoid trouble then just begin the journey of the above.

© H. Robert Silverstein, M.D.