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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Is exercise really the panacea for all ills?

A friend recently commented: “The reason you are so healthy, Gary, is because you make regular exercise a priority in your life”.  

I corrected him: “The reason I am able to exercise the way I do is because I am healthy.  The exercise is important for health; but it has not made me healthy”

There is a popular misconception that getting out and beating the body into shape through punishing exercise is the panacea for all ills.  This is wrong: You do not need to exercise beyond a daily early morning walk and a little gardening now and then to be healthy.

Some of the most unhealthy people I know are marathon runners and triathletes.  Some of the healthiest people I know do hardly any exercise at all.  These “light exercisers” will probably die peacefully in their sleep after hitting the ton.  

By the time I was 50 years old, I was burned out as an athlete - and as a parent and in business - I was crisped.  Every muscle hurt, my left knee was arthritic, blood pressure and cholesterol were on the rise.  My head was full of cotton wool.  My skin required regular visits to the dermatologist to have sunspots removed.  I was so tired.  I walked out of work at 51 years of age and never went back because I could not bear another day.  At one point my maximum heart rate in the exercise physiology lab was just 109 beats per minute (It should have been nearly 190).  109 beats equated to little more than a brisk walk.  This was hard to take for an athlete who used to bang out marathons consistently under three hours (PB: 2hr 34m).  My adrenals were exhausted to the point of cardiovascular collapse.

Seven years later, with much study in between, I am officially in better physical health than I was in my 20’s.  That is official because the times I am now producing in sporting competitions are better today than they were 30 years ago.  The stop watch does not lie.  The funny thing is this: I am not doing anywhere as much training as I did during my 20’s.  So, what has changed?  

I stopped competing in sports and cut right back to nothing more than relaxing exercise (Walking, cycling with the family and gardening) and commenced a lengthy and detailed process of restoring my physical and mental health through rest, massage and nutrition.  This included yearly Hair Tissue Mineral Analyses to guide my diet and use of supplements to correct nutrient imbalances within the body.  I commenced a painful regime of weekly deep tissue massages.  Although it has taken a long time to turn things around, the outcome has been nothing less than miraculous and there is more to come.

Maximum heart rate is back to about 180 beats per minute.  Muscles no longer ache during exercise.  My knee does not bother me any more.  Blood pressure and cholesterol are healthy.  Body fat has dropped to less than 10% while muscle and bone have increased (These normally decline with age).  My skin has cleared and I have had no need to consult a dermatologist for the last four years.  I wake in the morning and feel alive, instead of dead tired.  I am working again, loving it and more productive than ever.

Now 57 years old, my peak physical work output and endurance are the best ever.  This goes against everything I was taught in exercise physiology about exercise and ageing.  In the 50+ age group for mountain bike racing, there might be just one cyclist in New Zealand who can beat me.  Along with my two brothers (both over 50), we have never been beaten in the 40+ age category for multi-sports team racing in New Zealand and Australia.

Without doubt, 2010 has been the best year of my life, health-wise, business-wise, relationship-wise and sporting-wise.  What a way to finish a decade that started on such a low!

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Lyse said...

Gary, you're an inspiration. I am so happy that you have found your sweet spot. You've worked for it, and I'm thrilled that it's all come together for you. I couldn't agree more about the exercise. I certainly overdid the exercise for many years, and coupled with a very stressful lifestyle, I might have looked healthy, but I sure wasn't! (as we both know.) With your help, I'm now on the right track, and eternally grateful to you for your care and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary - very inspiring reading! Congrats on you recent results too, they are fantastic.

I am curious to know how much cycling (mtb) you are doing on a weekly basis?


Gary Moller said...

At one point I was running, cycling or kayaking up to three times a day. That was in my 20's and thirties.

I got up to as much as 120 miles of running in a week.

Nowadays I get on my bike three or four times a week. This really depends on the Wellington weather!

Most rides are about 2 hours with the longest up to about 3.5 hrs. This is not much in cycling terms.

I have not run for at least 6 months. That is good.

KingArthurUSA said...

Less is more, too much intense training, poor nutrition and a bad lifestyle contributes to disease. How many sportsman's bodies are burnt how before they reach mentally maturity.
Rest in between training is imperative. Most of all is doing something that is not a grind but a pleasure