Heavy vs. Lean | Shaping our views of exercise

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Hello, everyone! It’s the third week of 2014 and I’m excited to bring you this post!!

In case you are just joining me now, here is week #1 and week #2 to get you up to speed! If you are sick of doing traditional push ups, want more for your core, it is time to learn new styles of core training and push up variations. Check out this video from week 2 and a NEW VIDEO for week 3!

In week #3 I will be discussing a study that has powerful implications of the role that society plays with our psyche and our ability to reach our exercise, fitness & health potential. Our true potential. Not to mention the mind-body dualism that exists within all of us!

At the end of this post I discuss how important it is to have a supportive community you can thrive in, communication or the ability to communicate, as well longevity, happiness and confidence.

Please think about this question for a moment, ‘does being heavy or lean shape our view of exercise?’

Once again,

Here’s a provocative question: Does being heavy or lean shape our view of exercise?

This study was published last month in The International Journal of Obesity. Scientists associated with the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality at Southwest University in Chongqing, China recruited 13 healthy, young, normal-weight women and 13 who were overweight or obese. Their findings are actually quite amazing.

Let’s first consider the methodologies used in this study:

Volunteers had to answer 2 types of questionnaires, (1) probing the extent to which they considered exercise desirable, for instance, do you agree with this statement “if I were to be healthy and active, it would help me make friends”and (2) whether they expected exercise to be unpleasant, if they were to be physically active on most days, for example would they expect to wind up feeling sore, or even embarrassed by exercising in public?
Each woman would lie inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, which scans blood flow to specific areas of the brain, showing areas of increased activity. Then they started a slide show of 90 images of either physical activity or sedentary behaviors.
In previous studies, scientists already have known that the brains of overweight people operate differently than the brains of thinner people when they look at images related to eating. The putamen, an area of the brain involved in reward processing, became activated more so in overweight people and simultaneously, these overweight women also showed blunted activity in areas that are thought to induce satiety, or the ability to know when you’re full. Generally, the reverse was present in the brains of the thinner women shown the same images.
90 images of running, dancing, leaping, playing tennis as well as 90 images of stretching out on the sofa and sitting in a desk chair. The women were asked to vividly picture themselves in all of these situations using hand gestures and limited body movement (being in an MRI).
Results were that overweight women’s brains were put off by exercise (little activation in Putamen region of the brain) suggesting they did not like what they were seeing. At the same time, a region of the brain associated with negative emotions lit up far more when they viewed images of moving than of sitting.
Leaner women’s brain activity was the opposite, the putamen lit up when they watched others work out and envisioned doing the same themselves. It is impossible to know whether a dislike of exercise contributed to or resulted from weight gain.
Also, when overweight volunteers viewed images of exercise, a portion of their brain related to movement memory remained silent. There bodies were unfamiliar with how to be active! They didn’t know how to exercise and anticipated not enjoying trying to learn. These larger women did say at the study’s start, when answering the questionnaires, that they expected exercise to end in embarrassment (while also believing that if only they could exercise, they would be more popular).
Wow!! Did those findings hit you as hard as they did me?

I see these findings as an enormous reflection of the societal cues, constraints, and pressures (especially of women) to be thinner. With this being true (even to some extent) you can see why an overweight woman would, at the beginning of a questionnaire investigating a link between their perception of exercise, how to exercise, and emotions and expectations associated with exercise, be potentially negative or lack the excitement and ability to relate to exercise as that shown by thinner and more lean women. The experiences of the two populations clearly must be completely different, given that some overweight or obese people are much less likely to have exercise experience or, like I said, much different experiences while exercising or being active. Think mind-body dualism, “I think, therefore I am”.

This is by no means my opinion or stance that overweight or obese women are not, or are not as capable of being excited to exercise, be more healthy and become more lean, or have the same true potential as women more thin.

Dr. Jackson, a professor of exercise science leading the study says, “Encourage people to pursue physical activities and exercise that they actually find pleasurable and might enjoy”.

This makes sense to me, as a trainer and coach, but for those who are novice to exercising or less likely to lead a more active lifestyle this statement shows how powerful one’s support community can be (or the affects lack there of), how important communication is between our fellow-exercisers and non-exercisers, because at the end of the day whether you enjoy it or not, it is almost impossible to have longevity, happiness and be a confident person without physical activity and all the positive performance, physiological, physical and psychological benefits that being active brings you.
A Support Community is the environment you are in when training, almost always this environment is your choice to be present in and not by mistake.
Communication is important because we learn from other people, not just about technique of different exercises and exercise-related things but also just being a social human being!!
Longevity, happiness and confidence are essential to leading the life you want. Unless you don’t want to live that long and enjoy your surroundings, be happy and enjoy who you are with or enjoy being YOU, or if you don’t care about being proud of who you are and what you can do with your life well….then maybe you don’t need longevity, happiness and confidence in your life.
A final note about this study and what is presented to us, whether we are scientists or not, is that the time has come to stop judging people, to end living in a place where you think you know a person based on their bodyfat% and if you must, if you absolutely must think even in a smidgen of this judgemental, negatively-ridden and ridiculous way, please do so and judge yourself, challenge yourself, push yourself to become more supportive, positively communicative and be confident in your ability to help someone else. Period.

Again, here’s the complete article. Please read and allow it motivate you to become more knowledgeable of how society’s expectations of others and other BS sometimes can limit us and the one’s we love around us. Support each other, communicate, be happy, live long and confidently!!

Next week I will be focusing more on Performance-based articles and research I have done. More specifically, I will discuss two articles…
What rest periods maximize workout volume? And,
Does training heavier lead to more hypertrophy?
By the way, if you aren’t consciously focused on building or at least maintaining muscle mass, then you are literally wasting away! There are direct correlations to frequencies and likelihoods of diseases, illnesses, occurrences of different kinds of cancer, living longer and the amount of lean muscle tissue we have. Guess what, having more muscle is better!! Doesn’t mean you should become a body-builder but you could (I’m just saying).

This abstract from a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigates the underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease,

“…altered muscle metabolism plays a key role in the genesis, and therefore the prevention, of many common pathologic conditions and chronic diseases. Nonetheless, the maintenance of adequate muscle mass, strength, and metabolic function has rarely, if ever, been targeted as a relevant endpoint of recommendations for dietary intake. It is therefore imperative that factors directly related to muscle mass, strength, and metabolic function be included in future studies designed to demonstrate optimal lifestyle behaviors throughout the life span, including physical activity and diet.”

Last, but not least, here is another one of my band push ups I created (I’ve never seen anyone do these and those I’ve shown, say the same)….but I’m excited and inspired to show you! Check out my most recent video, and last week’s too!

That’s all folks!

Let’s succeed together!

Mark Jellison, CSCS

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