Friday, March 31, 2006

The Heart Does Not Beat Forever

People who study cross species differences, have noticed that all animals pretty much have the same number of ultimate heart beats, and so species with the slowest heart rates -- like the tortoise, have the longest lives, while animals with the fastest heart rates, like shrews, live only about a year.

It’s also noted that within a species, such as man for example, that those whose heart rates are lower tend to live longer than those with faster heart rates. The lower heart rates is indicative of greater cardiovascular efficiency -- requiring the heart to work less hard (fast). The heart cannot work any harder than it already does because its sole movement is full contraction to full relaxation -- it can not decide to give only 5-10% effort, or contraction -- and so the rate of the contractions is a variable that matters.

Great long distance runners are those with the genetic advantage of having slower than normal heart rates, and one will note that at the end of their races, many do not even seem to be breathing hard. Obviously, such people were built for running -- and when reviewing these elite runners coming in at the head of the pack of thousands of daily runners, they seem to be a breed apart, who are not normally seen otherwise along the jogging trails, laboring mightily to take their next breath and step.

Just as obviously, the ideal exercise for such people, is not running, or walking even, if the activity doesn’t seem to be right for them. But rather than that being discouraging, one should find or create the exercise they are suited best for -- just like even elite athletes must also. The champion distance runner is not going to be the champion weightlifter -- no matter how much time, energy and other resources he puts into it.

So the blanket advice that any exercise is better than none at all -- is not sound wisdom and may be the reason for a lot of people’s discouragement. When one embarks on the myriad of activities that human ingenuity has devised, some will be enjoyable and others will not -- but to force everyone to feel the same towards any one, is not any kind of understanding of human behavior, motivation and performance.

One of the great misunderstandings of contemporary science, is that the average does not supersede the range -- but it is the range that is real, and not the average. The “average” may actually be totally nonsensical and meaningless -- like the person standing with one foot in a bucket of scalding hot water and the other in ice water, and the researcher smugly pronouncing that the subject is “on average,” totally comfortable -- denying the actuality of the experience.

Those with greater cardiovascular efficiency will tend to find most cardiovascular challenges to be enjoyable -- while those without that congenital advantage, would find other movements and exercises more suitable as well as enjoyable. All the exercise in the world is not going to transform a cardiovascular disadvantaged, to the cardiovascular gifted.

That’s a misunderstanding of cause and effect, and correlation. People don’t exercise to get into shape; it’s because of their shape that they like to exercise -- but exercise is much broader than simply increasing one’s heart rate. It is the requirement that increasing one’s heart rate that discourages most people’s activity because the increase in the heart rate is an indicator to lower the heart rate, to conserve heart beats as much as possible.

The trick is to develop healthful exercise that costs the body nothing. What that requires is a better understanding of total body functioning -- and not just one organ in isolation to every other. The whole is much more than just the sum of the parts.


At March 31, 2006 1:13 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

As a society, we’re emerging from a period of bad (pseudo) science, in which claims that sound plausible, are accepted as the truth, while that which is actually true, are ignored because it is self-evidently true, requiring no experts to vouchsafe for that truth.

Organizations and agencies do not exist to spread the truth -- but to increase the reliance for more experts to “manage” that truth.

At April 02, 2006 1:45 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The problem with health care professionals taking charge of health is that they make everybody into a patient -- regarding everybody as a person who doesn't realize how sick they are -- if they just had enough tests done, which now are infinite -- but fully covered under their health care insurance, so not to worry!

Most of the people with such generous coverage, have a higher incidence of costly procedures -- coincidentally. The patients think they arem't benefiting unless they are sick -- because that's what they are rewarded for in their union contracts, when money is the only indicator of success.

I always thought the people in the newspapers ran those grotesque photos alongside their bylines so they wouldn't be recognized when they went out in public -- until I realized that was their most flatttering photo, and why they never left the building anymore to go out in public to get the real story, but only compounded the depression they had just read by some other journalist, also afraid of everything.

At April 03, 2006 10:36 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Also, the muscles don't regenerate forever -- so that those who muscle-build by breaking down muscle tissue arbitrarily, find that one day, they no longer have that recovery ability -- so that the muscles they've broken down, no longer recover to greater development but speeds the atrophy.

That's a well-documnted biological observation -- that tissues do not regenerate forever, so one has to be very judicious in using their bodies in this manner.

That is true for all the body -- the feet, knees, back, hips etc. There is a very real danger of wearing them out --especially under stress and load. Even the brain will break down under constant stress and use; there has to be a relaxation phase and alowance for proper recovery time and ability.

A lot of the great athletes reach that point -- at 30, 35, 40 -- where they just feel like they've stepped off a cliff. One day they're Superman and the next day, their notable recovery ability is gone -- and for the first time in their lives, they don't feel they have control over their lives and destiny anymore. Everything they do and attempt, just produces another injury -- until they finally stop all activity.

So those common notions that one is likely to rust out faster than there is danger of wearing out is indicative of no understanding of human physiology and performance. As a person gets older, they have to conserve their energy and pick their spots -- rather than thinking that in order to maintain their vitality, they have to continue to compete with the 20 year olds.

All animals attain that maturation and change in behavior. Adult gorillas don't climb trees anymore because they can't. They've just learned at some point, that the risk of falling outweighs the exhilartion of climbing -- like the youngsters do. If their lives depended on it, they could go all out -- but they've also learned that they don't have to, or shouldn't, most of the time.

Those are the ones that endure -- rather than just fighting every battle they can, running every race, climbing every mountain just to prove they can. They're the ultimate survivors because they know how to pick their spots.

At April 04, 2006 12:39 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Too frequent high workloads causes the body to adapt, or "get used to it," as a norm, rather than be a stimulus for growth. In order for a workout to act as a growth stimulus, it has to be of a higher intensity than the norm -- but also infrequent enough so that the body has to build up a reserve capacity to meet that challenge.

Psychologists know this as the value of erratic positive reinforcement -- whereby a reward is more effective if it is occasional rather than that which becomes taken for granted, is too predictable, does not represent an extraordinary event for which the body has to anticipate and increase its capability to respond. In that anticipation, the body develops a focus -- learning to peak as well as to rest and recover. That is what the champions do better than the average -- who actually may be putting out as much total effort over a period of time.

But what the average performer cannot do is put everything into a brief, concentrated moment. That kind of performance is often seen in athletics but is also evident in all the ordinary things people do in their lives -- the difference being not how much but how well.

Those are the people who recognize that it is quality -- of life and everything else -- that matters and makes a difference, and not just a lot of quantity of whatever. The quantity is easy to measure -- because that may be the only thing that IS measured while everything stays the same. With a qualitative difference, measurement is more problematical because everything changes -- and not just the one thing.

And that's why those unfamiliar with change, don't have this understanding of change -- which is profound and not merely the superficial desire for it. Such people always want to become something other than they are. Those who truly know change, know that they are change.

At April 05, 2006 2:35 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Once a week of exposure to higher intensities of challenge is enough to keep one growing -- while five minutes of focused, intelligent movement daily is enough to get one up to present top functioning. That seems to be the rate that can be maintained indefinitely, very effortlessly.

Anything more becomes prohibitive to most people. The five minutes or less is the threshold under which most people cannot think of a good excuse for a better use of their time. And then at no time and point in one's life, does one wish to arrive at a point that further improvement is not possible -- even if the increments are not that dramatic.

It's like becoming richer by only a penny day for the rest of one's life. The fact is, one is getting richer every day. While big gains would be more sensational and something to brag about, they are usually not sustainable indefinitely -- and come with higher risks for a reversal (injury, sickness, burnout, time, etc.).

The cost/benefit equation has never been mapped out with these sensitivities -- but only in the gross manner of thinking that more is better regardless. In everything we do in life, a cost/benefit equation has to be considered -- and the kind of unconditional, unqualified thinking undermines our efforts.

Yes, it would be great to have everything we desired if cost were not a consideration. But the reality is that cost is a prime consideration -- in everything we do.

That's why concepts like Cost-of-Living Indexes are bogus, because the presumption is that one does not adjust one's purchasing habits if prices change -- when obviously, that is the most important consideration in practically every exchange -- what is the cost and what do I get in return?

As the equation has been presented to most people by the so-called, self-proclaimed experts on fitness, it's not attractive or compelling to put out so much time, energy and effort for so little results. But is there another possiblity in which the benfit/cost would be so overwhelming that that revelation eliminates the health problems that sustain the health care industry? Of course, they don't want you to know about it -- and they'll be your experts on this matter and be your sole source of information.

That's a pretty good business.

At April 05, 2006 2:45 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The Cost-of-Living Index, while seeming to be a sacred cow in the thinking and reporting of business and econmic matters, actully violates the essential tenet in the study of ecomics -- that as cost changes, so does every consideration and behavior.

So these reporters who think they've passed on some indication of their sophistication in discussing these matters in saying, "adjusted for inflation" liberally, have nabsolutely no idea what they are talking about.


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