The two exercise related books I have read most recently are almost polar opposites. One is written by a guy who likes to site studies done on a sample size of one whose lead experimenter and subject are one and the same. The other is a Doctor who sites studies done by qualified professionals on an actual sample size of subjects. One of these book tries to solve all of your body problems at once by hopping around to a dizzying array of topics and dealing with them in a rather selective way that emphasizes the interests of the author. The other book focuses on how exercise can help you and explains exactly how exercise addresses many health issues by listing facts and studies for a variety of human problems. The second book methodically goes through how exercise can help you, and which exercises are recommended for each body issue.

 

At this point it is probably obvious that I would recommend one of these books and one of them I decidedly would not. See if you can tell which I prefer.

 

The 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferris

 

Mr. Ferriss doesn’t mind if you would like to hop around his book and actually discourages you from reading it straight through. He even lays out the chapters you will want to concentrate on for different goals. He wants you to doubt his science and find out for yourself. Which is great, because I do doubt some of it.

 

The author recommends that a productive work out should use the minimum effective dose (MED) of exercise. According to Ferriss there are two things to keep in mind for body redesign: 1. Remove stored fat, 2. Add muscle. He said that more exercising is not better, the MED does the most in the least time. He agrees that exercise doesn’t contribute to weight loss, in his own way.

 

Moving on to sustenance, Ferriss calls food a drug, but then recommends that we use 60%diet, 10% drugs, and 30% exercise to lead to a 20 lb change in appearance, meaning maybe 15 lbs lost and  5 lb gain in muscle. So is food in the “diet” category or the “drug” category, and then what falls into the category food is not in? He specifies the exercise he is talking about doesn’t include yoga, team sports, or swimming, just specific things that get you to your goal. I imagine these are things that get right to the point of lots of sweat and worn out muscles.  

 

As far as measuring, he thinks the scale is too simple and recommends a number of procedures or ways of measuring progress. It makes it especially complicated because he encourages you to gain muscle so simply measuring weight won’t be accurate. Some of his methods of measuring involve a trip to a medical facility for different scans, indicating that Ferris’ methodology has little regard for those cramped for time or money. While in one sense He claims he is more a proponent of doing what works for you rather than a plan. He also recommends some very specific ways of getting to your goals. One example he gave was a guy who lost weight by changing nothing other than being aware of his weight. But Ferriss, himself would recommend the slow-carb diet

The slow-carb diet

  1. Avoid all white carbs like rice, bread and potatoes
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over with protein, legumes, and vegetables
  3. Don’t drink calories, lots of water
  4. No fruit
  5. One day off a week

He gave a bunch of tricks to try to make sure that when you binge you don’t gain weight, but they are too complicated for me to write in any concise form. When you progress to the “Advanced” section there is just a lot of detailed, confusing stuff, followed by his profession of love for kettlebells and a lot of exercise how-tos. Then he went into a chapter on each of the following: how to get a girl to orgasm, how to sleep less, reversing injuries, and living longer, all of which were interspersed with more exercises.

By the time I was skimming the last few chapters I felt like I had a good sense of the author’s arrogance. The book was really random. The things just didn’t go together in my mind, and some of them had a really cursory overview. One thing that did seem to tie them together was a knack for oversimplification. “You only need this simple thing,” was a common refrain. You just need a kettlebell, or this 5 step diet, or to rub the clitoris very gently. But it seemed to me as you got into it the diet was very restrictive and limiting. He told you what to eat and when: no fruit, no white carbs. And the section on how to binge and not gain weight was very specific. You must eat this thing at this time. He sells these things as simple, but I think they are only simple to an anal bachelor with nothing else to do with his time but perfect himself and take notes about it. You may gain some insight from it, but I really feel that he cherry-picked advice from friends and Doctors who saw things his way. His way of measuring himself is very precise, but he only measured himself. Not a random gathering of any number of people. He also had a tendency to confuse simultaneous occurrence with causation. Just because you didn’t gain weight after you binged one time doesn’t necessarily mean it was because of the timing of breakfast, or because of the grapefruit juice.

The Exercise Cure by Jordan D. Metzl, MD

After slogging through the pooled ignorance of Tim Ferriss and his friends I was rather relieved to dive into a book written by an actual Doctor. At least his educational background is a good start.

 

Dr. Metzl starts by selling exercise as a miracle drug that can help with everything from depression to cancer to longevity. Based on the other books I have read and research I have done he isn’t far off from the truth. Exercise has been shown to at least help if not cure many of the the things that ail us as humans. Dr. Metzl says that while many people would have you believe that obesity is really harming our health he believes, based on research and experience, that low fitness is a better predictor of premature death than your weight. He cited a study that showed that sedentary people who started exercising not only got healthier, but drank and smoked less, and even did more chores around the house and worked harder at their jobs. Interesting…

 

He recommends if you get injured to do “dynamic rest”. He said to rest what is injured, but do some kind of workout, whatever you can do, with the rest of you. If your leg is injured, workout your upper body or swim, for example. He said it is unhealthy to fully rest, because you will atrophy, and you won’t get the chemicals released in exercise, which can be almost like a drug withdrawal. He listed an amazing array of health issues that he claimed could be alleviated or cured by exercise.

 

Brain and psych problems:

  1. Addiction: Sited studies that said exercise can keep you from building bad addiction habits.
  2. Addiction: Sited studies that said they can help you kick bad habits you already have.
  3. Addiction: Sited one study that said mice who had an exercise habit already had a harder time kicking an addiction if they got it while exercising over mice who had an addiction and then started exercising.
  4. Anxiety: Exercise can greatly help mild anxiety, but not severe anxiety. Need a Doctor for that one.
  5. ADHD: He says exercise can mimic what some ADHD medications do, and possibly help you focus. He doesn’t seem to have as much research for this one.
  6. Depression: There are quite a few studies linking exercise with depression help. Exercise releases the right hormones.
  7. Memory loss and cognitive problems: Studies have shown help in memory by releasing the right proteins and increasing blood flow.
  8. Fatigue: It can give you energy, duh.
  9. Sleep and sleep apnea: It wears you out, so you sleep better. Obesity is also a risk factor with sleep apnea, so of course it can help you with that.

 

Cardiopulmonary problems:

  1. Asthma: A study showed that a fitter cardiovascular system has fewer effects from it
  2. Asthma: Even though exercise is good there are a number of precautions specifically for asthma, like not running in the cold and warming up.

In general for heart and these types, exercise, but take precautions like not running in extreme temps, and pay attention for anything that might need to be checked out

 

Metabolic problems: diabetes, low thyroid, etc, usual advice also some diet tips for high cholesterol.

 

Hormonal and sexual problems: Like erectile dysfunction. Maybe running can improve circulation. It can be associated with many other issues, so if you deal with those ED can improve. Helps menopause symptoms. He has a few pages of menopause exercises

 

Musculo-skeletal: lots of exercises for low flexibility, muscle weakness, even sprains, and pain in various joints and back. Recommends swimming for arthritis. Says exercise cannot cure cancer, but it may prevent you from getting it and it can help with healing after it is gone.

 

After a very inspiring display of facts he has you ready to get up and running.  Dr. Metzl lays out a nine month exercise program with levels from just off the couch to a pretty athletic person. Then he give a quick diet tip chapter that is similar to the 4 Hour Body, but not so anal: avoid white carbs, don’t drink calories, eat good fats etc. These were mostly just guidelines.

 

This book provides good solid advice. Honestly, some of the evidence provided for how exercise can fix diseases was rather weak, but the astounding number and variety of problems he broke down solutions for was definitely a convincing witness to the power of exercise. I think if exercise has a good effect on even most of the issues he mentioned it would definitely be a solid case to get off the couch. The workouts he proposed echo those I have been doing on my apps and online. If you spend much time at all exercising you will see repetition of the best exercises, although the ones considered the best are likely to change over time based on what science is discovering. The diet advice at the end was very similar to Tim Feriss’ five rules, except that in this book they were presented more as recommendations. Aim for less white carbs, try to avoid those calorie laden drinks, but the diet didn’t seem to rely on strict rules in order to get results. As a matter of fact the 4 Hour Body book seemed to bounce around from, hey, you can lose weight from just being observant, to, you must follow these rules or nothing will work. Very confusing.

 

Needless to say I preferred the tone, authority, and the organization of The Exercise Cure far more than the 4 Hour Body. While some of the claims Dr. Metzl made about what exercise can cure or at least help with may have been stretched a bit, there is no denying that he presents a clear and convincing case that exercise can help humans in so many ways. I can take a number of the exercise programs and recommendations out of this book and relatively easily incorporate them into my life. As far as the 4 Hour Body, I am NOT giving up my carbs and mochas or limiting myself to very specific tiny meals. I have a family to feed and I don’t have time to make separate meals for myself. I don’t plan on being anyone’s orgasm guinea pig, or taking short naps all day long rather than sleeping at night. The inspiration I took from Dr. Metzl’s book is enough to keep me going through hard workouts and wonderful runs for many days to come.

 

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