Dr. Cinque's personal perspective about exercise
- Created on Saturday, 26 January 2019 03:21
I have been an exercise enthusiast most of my life, and at age 68, I still am. But, my ideas about it are, in some ways, unorthodox. For instance, I think that common, popular notions about stretching are wrong. People stretch to increase their range of motion, but a greater range of motion isn't necessarily good. The fact is that every time you contract one muscle, you stretch its opposing muscle. So, stretching occurs naturally and spontaneously in activity. You don't necessarily have to stretch as a separate thing. However, if you are going to do something like ballet or karate, you need a greater range of motion than everyday activities provide. So, for that, you would want to do some stretching. But, what if you're not doing ballet or karate? Then, you may not need to stretch at all. The most important thing is to move well within whatever range of motion you have. That's much more important than trying to arbitrarily increase your range of motion through forceful stretching. So, if you can't bent forward and touch your toes with your legs straight, don't worry about it. It is not necessary for you to do that.
Running is seriously overrated, and walking is a superior exercise. That's because there is a high risk of injury from running, but with walking, you'd probably have to fall off the curb and get bit by a dog to get hurt. Walking involves a much more balanced and symmetrical use of the muscles, front and back. You'll actually look better from walking than running. If you walk briskly and keep going without stopping for 30 or 45 minutes, and perhaps work a hill or two into the walk, you are going to get all of the benefits of running while bypassing the risks and harms. So, walk; don't run.
Bicycling is very good for the lower body, and there is very low risk of injury, save for falling off the bike or getting hit by a car. And the latter two things are, granted, very serious. But, I fortunately, have a route to ride with very low traffic density, and I mean hardly any cars at all. And falling off the bike isn't a likely scenario either. But, I do wear a helmet, and I consider it very safe. And I find it strangely relaxing even though I am exerting myself. Mentally, I feel more relaxed from taking a bike ride. It's like therapy for me. so, riding my bike is one of the most enjoyable things I do.
Swimming is fantastic exercise. And again, except for possibility of drowning, or swimming into the wall, there is very low risk of injury and very balanced use of the muscles. Of course, it doesn't do much for the lower part of the body. You swim mainly with your arms. But, if you're swimming, but also walking and/or bicycling. it doesn't matter. A big negative about swimming is the chlorine that is in the water of pools. So, if you have access to a natural body of water in which to swim, it is enormously better. But, in terms of the muscular usage and the mechanical motion, swimming is hard to beat.
Tennis is very hard on the body because there is no cadence to it, no flow. And if you look at professional tennis players, they are very dystonic people. They acquire severely dys-coordinated movements. In other words, they are spastic messes. It's the reaching and stretching and sudden changes in direction that make it very hard on the body. I'm not saying that you can't play tennis sometimes, but just remember: you're not being paid for it. So, don't go overboard trying to win a point. It's really not worth it.
Weight-lifting is very efficient. It is a very efficient way to acquire and maintain strength. But obviously, people can get hurt trying to lift heavy weights. And when I go into a weight-lifting gym (and today, it's mostly machines, not free weights) what I observe is that some of the motions are biomechanically sound, but others aren't. And frankly, the average fitness trainer doesn't know as much as he or she thinks she does. There are plenty of exercises they teach that people shouldn't be doing at all. For instance, it's really foolish to try to lift a heavy object over your head because in doing so, you're very likely to strain your low back. Likewise, you should never lift a heavy object from the floor with straight legs.
So, what are the practical implications of that? Well, for instance, instead of doing an overhead press with a barbell, do a seated incline press. You'll have the back of the seat to support your back, and you won't be taking the bar straight up, and that will help protect your low back. There are a lot of other examples like that, and you may or may not get good advice from a trainer.
Bowling is a bad sport because it involves the unbalanced action of moving with a heavy object in one hand while at the same time twisting your spine in order to impart spin on the ball, and it is a recipe for trouble. And there's no much good that can be said about golf, where you are swinging and lifting while also turning and twisting. Be aware that Tiger Woods personal and professional troubles arose from the numerous injuries he suffered playing golf. And the reason I include his personal problems is because he got hooked on pain-killers, anti-inflammatories, and other drugs. And again, if you play a round of gold occasionally, that's fine, but just remember: you're not being paid to do it.
Hiking is great exercise because it usually involves hill work, and hiking up a hill is all the exercise you are ever going to need for your lower body. Riding a stationary bicycle at home is great, so long as it fits you well, and I have one. I use it when it's raining or too cold or even too hot. It's not as much fun, and the way I use it is to a series of wind sprints on the bike.
I very much like the Total Gym, and I have one. With it, your body weight provides the resistance. I don't do all the exercises they have in the book because some of them are not biomechanically sound, but I do the ones that are, and it feels good.
A Nordic track is good, and a walking treadmill is fine too. I don't have either, but I do have a Health Rider, and I like it too.
Situps are highly overrated, and they work the psoas muscle more than the abdominal muscles. I don't do anything specific to exercise my abdominal muscles. I really don't believe in it. Some muscles weren't meant to be specifically exercised, such as the neck muscles, which get all the exercise they need supporting the weight of your head. Your abdominal muscles get their exercise through their involvement with respiration, which of course is constant. And they are involved with supporting and containing your abdominal organs, as in: holding them in. Those actions are going on all the time, and if you do those actions well, your abdominal muscles are going to stayed toned and conditioned. My abdomen is well toned, and I have a little bit of a six-pack. In fact, I wouldn't want more a six-pack than I have. Don't envy those guys with extreme six-packs. That is NOT how the abdominal wall is supposed to be, and I think it is very undesirable. There is a lot of ignorance out there about what to be striving for from exercise.