Sunday, May 16, 2010

Less Is More?

Oh, Canada.

Some Canadian researchers are recommending that the government lower its minimum guidelines for exercise.

While Canada's Physical Activity Guide recommends "at least 90 minutes of physical activity daily for youngsters, and 30 to 60 minutes minimum for adults, most days of the week," researchers from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) say that kids can cut down their exercise to an hour a day, and adults need only about 150 minutes per week -- just a bit over 20 minutes daily.

"The fact of the matter is that the activity levels, and the health of the population, has declined across the last 60, 70 years such that it takes a fairly low dose of movement to start to see change, for the body to recognize, 'Oh, this is an overload to our system,' " says Dr. Mark Tremblay, chairperson of the group's Physical Activity Guidelines Committee, which released its recommendations yesterday with ParticipACTION.

"What the evidence is showing is that we've become so inactive, and fitness levels have declined so much, that it takes very little introduction of movement to produce improvements" in health, Tremblay said, such as lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar regulation and improvements in other markers of chronic disease.


But the current recommendations of 60 minutes per day for adults, or 90 minutes daily for youth, might be intimidating and seem out of reach for many, especially for people who are inactive, the Canadian researchers say.
In other words, folks have become such fat, lazy pieces of poo that by moving around just a little bit, they can go a long way to improving our health. And, according to CSEP, telling people to exercise more than 20 minutes a day is counterproductive because it just discourages them from doing anything at all.

This approach isn't new (remember this?), but I'm not a fan. To me, this approach is akin to throwing up our hands when we learn that our kids aren't excelling at (or enjoying) school; instead of fostering a love of learning or encouraging/supporting/exhorting them to do better, why not simply tell them it's enough to squeak by with a barely passing grade and no more? The risk of lowering standards is that those who can excel may very well be persuaded to settle for just meeting those expectations rather than doing their best and striving for more. While that may be fine in some contexts, I'm fairly certain that settling for the bare minimum activity level isn't exactly a recipe for optimum health.

I'm not saying that couch potatoes need to immediately start killing themselves with Insanity workouts, but the bottom line is this: Less isn't more, and "good enough" isn't good enough.