What’s the latest in health?

ride your bike

What are the current best practices for health and wellness?

Gretchen Reynolds covers the health beat for her NYT column  “Phys Ed.” Her new book is called “The First 20 Minutes,”  offering health tips and insights from the latest research. Some popularly held health and fitness myths break down under scientific scrutiny but some practical tips and information take their place.

The book is clearly written but rambles a bit. I liked it, but a few of my friends who’ve started reading it didn’t finish. The rambling and sometimes nerdy material is there  providing credibility and the background for information she’s providing.

Here’re some takeaway ideas I liked:

Be active. Many negative health outcomes previously thought to stem from aging actually come from being a couch potato, one of the biggest threats to your health.

Fitness isn’t always healthy. Being fit doesn’t always mean being healthy. Fitness is more about performance than health. If you can run 26.2 miles, it doesn’t mean you’re not “skinny fat,” without a heart problem, or more susceptible to colds for example.

To lose weight, exercise before (a protein) breakfast.

The first 20 minutes are the most important. You’ll get the biggest health benefit (different from fitness) during the first 20 minutes of exercise. Use the minimum effective dose (MED), do what’s needed – not as much as you can. Shoot for 150 minutes a week of walking or light exercise split up however you prefer.

Don’t stretch. Stretching before exercising is actually counterproductive.

Increase the load. To improve fitness performance you need to overload, causing an adaptive response in your body. Overload by increasing the weight, intensity, or frequency from workout to workout.

Stand more. Just standing more (than sitting) can contribute to your daily energy expenditure without setting off the mechanism that tries to compensate for calories burned.

Lift weights. Strength training slows the health declines from aging. If you want to keep it really simple, just do squats.

Drink when you’re thirsty. Our bodies use thirst to let us know when they need more water. Over hydration isn’t good.

You don’t need special foods. If you’re exercising less than 90 minutes water is best. Real foods can work when you need to eat during long sessions. And the best recovery drink is… low-fat chocolate milk.

Vitamins and antioxidant supplements are not helpful.

Don’t stop with my takeaways. There’s more information in the book which might be more important or useful for you.