Using fitness to aid in mental and physical health during times of uncertainty

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It doesn’t take a gym to keep up with fitness. Dr. Andrew Moore, a kinesiologist from Augusta University, joins The Means Report to explain how you can maximize your time during this continued span of uncertainty. He shares the importance of remembering to focus on your health and well-being, both physically and mentally.

Brad Means: Dr. Moore, I hope you’re doing well, and I appreciate your time today.

Dr. Andrew Moore: I’m doing well, I hope you’re also doing fine. And thank you for having me on.

Brad Means: Absolutely. We do appreciate it and you know, this really is counter to everything we’re used to when it comes to the lack of structure in our lives. And so, when it comes to exercise, people like a routine. They like to schedule their workouts, their walks, everything else. Is it even possible to stay in shape without that structure in our lives right now?

Dr. Andrew Moore: It’s absolutely possible. I would make the argument that it’s actually a little bit easier. Developing a routine can be difficult when you’re juggling all your work obligations and family obligations and all that. It kind of loses priority. But once you develop that, it’s somewhat a little bit easier given that you have, many people have no commute time to worry about. So you get an extra 40 minutes to an hour every day to work out. You’re not bound by the same strict structured work schedule so you can kind of sneak in exercise now and then. But the key word you used is routine, getting a routine built around everything else is really the most important thing.

Brad Means: Okay, so you bring up an interesting point. And I guess, the light bulb came on for me when you said this, ’cause it seems like a pretty easy way to get into that routine. Is it easiest just to take what would normally happen during a time slot, like the commute that you mentioned, and replace it with exercise?

Dr. Andrew Moore: For some people, yes, absolutely. That’s a great way to do that. I know some people would rather fill that commute time with sleep. for an extra 20 minutes, which is understandable. But as long as you’re mindful of that extra time and you think, “Okay, I have 20 minutes extra “that I normally wouldn’t have.” Yeah, that’s a great way to do it to maintain your routine, but still get a little bit extra exercise in that you normally wouldn’t. Yeah.

Brad Means: I know we’re gonna get into specifics as our conversation goes on, but just generally speaking, are there real mental and emotional benefits that come from making our body move?

Dr. Andrew Moore: 100% yeah, 100%. I think maybe after the first week, when we were all, just went from 60 miles an hour to zero in terms of getting out and about and doing our normal chores and all that embedded exercise that’s usually built into your life. When that’s missing, you notice. And you can’t quit put your finger on it. But yeah, there is a substantial amount of literature showing that your brain just works better, without getting into the specifics. There’s a lot of reasons why it works better. And emotionally, we’re in a better mood generally. Not after just one workout, that’s true, but also if you continuously workout, you know, three or four times a week, or get some kind of movement in, yeah absolutely. It’s a great mood booster that a lot of people take for granted.

Brad Means: I agree. You do just feel so much better after you exercise. Well, let me ask you something, ask you about something that I see a lot. And I know a lot of our viewers have been witnessing lately and that’s people taking walks. Alone, with a partner, with their family, they’re taking walks. But Dr. Moore they’re not speed walking or exercise walking. There appears to be no aerobic benefit from just taking a walk. And I know you probably think that sounds ignorant, but what kind of benefit can you get from a slow family walk?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Well, you already mentioned the mental and emotional benefits from exercise. Just being outside gives you a tremendous, I mean, if you’re inside, chances are really good that you’re just looking at a screen. And that is horrible. You know, it’s just so mundane and boring and just breaking the routine does a lot. But getting outside does a lot and spending quality time and you know, doing things that are kind of you haven’t had in a while, that’s great. But aerobically, yeah, absolutely. There are tremendous benefits just from walking at very, very light pace. You don’t have to be breathing hard and sweating to get a benefit. The benefits are greater, if you’re working out at a higher intensity. The key I guess, I think the landmark that you should be aiming for, is about 110 steps per minute, which is roughly 20 minutes per mile.

Brad Means: Okay.

Dr. Andrew Moore: Walking, which is doable. But even if you were walking slower than that, my dogs are old and slow. When we walk, it’s about half an hour per mile. But there’s still a benefit to that, just getting up and moving around, because your heart is having to work. Your blood vessels are having to make adjustments. Your lungs are working a little bit harder. Your muscles are getting a little bit of exercise. They’re not getting rusty and old and you know, forgotten about. Walking like that is a good reminder for your body and your muscles that they need to keep working. And if you don’t have that reminder every day, if you’re just sitting down for 16 hours a day, and then sleeping for eight hours a day, that muscle starts to degrade and it’s gone. And then when you need it, when we get to the other side of this COVID-19 pandemic, when you finally need those muscles you know, they’re gone. So it’s good to maintain that even if for light walk.

Brad Means: Yeah, I wanna ask you about maintaining those muscles, because that’s a fear of mine during this pandemic and a fear of a lot of people I suspect. How long do you have to do what you just described there? Whether it’s walking or strolling, how many minutes do you have to put in to do some good?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Well, anything is better than nothing, but the goal should be about 150 minutes per week, which if you took two days off per week to veg out, which is fine, that would be about half an hour a day of light to moderate walking. So, not a substantial amount. If you wanted to exercise more than that, then the benefits would be higher. So, it’s kind of a sliding scale, but yeah, at least 20 to 30 minutes per day. But I would say, that if you just wanna run and get it over with, run 10 minutes per day. That usually sufficient to maintain what you have or what you want to have.

Brad Means: What can we do around our house? I read something last night that said a guy just did laps around his living room to get his steps in on his watch.

Dr. Andrew Moore: Yeah.

Brad Means: It’s not a gym. It lacks all the things that gym has. How can we get, a quote unquote workout in an apartment or a house?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Yeah, you have to be a little bit creative. But when you remember that, for most people, your body weight is, you know, at least 100 pounds, probably closer to 150, 200 pounds for most people. What it comes down to is just modifying typical workouts to make it challenging, but still doable. So, push ups I think, are kind of, maybe if people have a better relationship with push ups,–

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Moore: ‘Cause, you know, that’s kind of cliche, but you know, you really, it gets kind of stale. But push ups are an excellent exercise. You can do squats just with your body weight. You don’t need any special weight. But, I’ll fill up a gallon jug of milk with water, that’s 10 pounds right there. It’s not a tremendous amount of weight, but when you do 30 or 40 in a row, you know, it starts to have some benefit.

Brad Means: So what would you do with that jug of milk? Would you curl it? Would you try to get two jugs of milk, two gallon containers and curl them?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Oh, you could, you could. But honestly, just holding that weight as you’re doing squats. Or you could make them into kettlebells and then do kettlebell swings, things like that. I just, easy modifications. The article that Stacy Hudson wrote on Jagwire for Augusta University, that details all these little specific tips and tricks that you can do to turn your home into a gym. So there’s a lot you can do that you maybe, is considered non traditional. But yeah, you don’t need you a, don’t need a $400 you know, hammer strength machine to get a good workout in. You can do things just around the house. Absolutely.

Brad Means: My wife has some 10 pound dumbbells that I found, and I kind of scoffed at them at first but, Dr. Moore after about your 30th or 40th rep with a 10 pound dumbbell, it feels like a 50 pound dumbbell. Why is that? Do your muscles just get worn out?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Yeah, absolutely yeah. Yeah, I can’t think of a better That explanation needs an analogy for me. But yeah, absolutely. Yeah, your muscles, they have, I guess they have like a gas tank. They have a certain amount of energy they have and a certain amount of metabolic waste product that accumulates. And that has to be cleared out before you can start to reuse it. So it’s kind of like a trash can. Trash can, can only hold so much garbage before you have to empty it. And then you can start doing activity again. So yeah, it does have that fatiguing effect that can make it challenging. And what’s great is when you use the same weight and then you then do 40 or 50 reps before you start to get tired, that’s how you can sense that you’re getting an improvement in your physical ability. So it’s a good way to track things.

Brad Means: I love it. What about concern about injuries? Without having that professional supervise you, being alone in your home. What can you say to us about how to do things that you’ve been talking about while being careful?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Well, the number one thing is listening to your body and not being a, I guess a slave to an arbitrary number. I throw out the number 30 or 40 reps. That’s for me, because I’ve done these enough to know what’s normal for me without getting any injury. My main advice would be to keep it simple. It’s pretty difficult to injure yourself if you’re only doing body weight squats without any added weight. So, I mean, if you keep it simple and then progress from there, I think that’s the best advice for people. Don’t jump in headfirst to really challenge yourself to get injured. Don’t walk the line like that at first, but progressing in a slightly increasing intensity every workout every week maybe it’s probably the best advice.

Brad Means: You know, when we’re young, a lot of people work out for the cosmetic benefits, if you will. To look better in the mirror, to be ripped. Tell me about the benefits of muscles and flexibility as we get older.

Dr. Andrew Moore: Sure, well, exercising is great when you’re young. It’s very important at all stages of life, but it’s especially important as we age. And if you lose the ability to exercise because you have a bad hip or osteoarthritis or osteoporosis or some other chronic issue that prevents you from exercising, or worse yet something that prevents you from just doing gardening, or putting the dishes back, or simple activities of daily living that add up to physical activity benefits. If you’re prevented from doing that, then it’s just a downhill slide from there. So it’s really important to maintain fitness throughout life. As far as muscles go, muscles are hugely important, not because they allow us to lift heavy weights, but because they are a great way to offset insulin resistance and diabetes. Diabetes is pretty common in this country if you haven’t heard, especially as we age. A muscle is there to kind of gobble up all that excess sugar in our blood, and to prevent a huge rise in blood sugar. And if you don’t have those muscles the you lose that ability. And then again, it’s kind of a, unfortunately an accelerated timeline for disease. So muscles flexibility, very important throughout the lifespan.

Brad Means: All right, so you sparked a concern at the beginning of our conversation when you talked about losing your muscles if you don’t use them for a while. How long does that take? Because we’re going on a month now, more than a month of being locked down, if you will. Dr. Moore, if you just lay off all exercise and use this pandemic as one big excuse, can every muscle that you’ve worked on your whole life go away?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Well, it wouldn’t disappear into thin air. But the, what do we say, the cross sectional area, the, I guess the circumference of the muscle would decrease. The quality of the muscle would decrease. You know, your mitochondria, the thing that makes energy for your muscle cells, those stop working as well. They’re not all created equal, there are good and bad ones. So those will degrade. Believe it or not your neurological function, the way your mind controls your muscles, will actually become worse as well. So, they just get rusty, you know. So, offsetting that should be I think goal number one for most people, is just to at least come out of this where you started. And that doesn’t take a whole lot believe it. It doesn’t take, you know, an hour a day of, you know, destroying your body and feeling fatigued. It just takes you know, few you know, reps of push ups, pull ups, squats, burpees, running, walking occasionally. But yeah, those things that are pretty important. I didn’t mean to concern you but–

Brad Means: No, but I mean it’s legitimate and it is a real concern that those things, that they can be use them or lose them situation. Just a couple more questions. How important are family members when it comes to keeping us honest and keeping us committed to our exercise routines?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Well, if you live with your family, then they’re very important because, you know, it is just so easy to explain away why you didn’t work out a certain day. And missing one day of working out is not the end of the world, that’s fine. But if it becomes a habit, then you need someone there to get on you a little bit, maybe. To back you up and say, listen, we both need to work out, why don’t we go do this workout? Or why don’t we go to this park and workout? So it’s really important to have someone there. But for me, my wife is nine months pregnant right now.

Brad Means: Wow.

Dr. Andrew Moore: So I have an accountability to keep us healthy, like staying away from any you know disease there is, but also to stay healthy because, we need to prepare to have a lot of sleepless nights, to have a lot of extra physical challenges over the next few months. Having my family there is a reminder to me to stay in shape because I feel I owe it to them. Everyone finds a different motivation in different things. Some people need someone screaming in their face to get them to work out.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Moore: And that’s fine. You know, you might be creative and do a you know, a Skype call with your workout buddies to do that. But definitely take advantage of having someone around to ride you a little bit to work out. Even if it’s just getting outside for a light walk.

Brad Means: Well, and just as a final point Dr. Moore, the habits and routines that you described, and they’re simple to implement, but we can carry those back with us into the real world when we’re allowed to go back into it, right?

Dr. Andrew Moore: Absolutely, yeah, you can definitely, maintaining continuity is always important. And thinking of this last month and the next however many months as time away is a little short sighted. I think building momentum and keeping that momentum as high as we can is a great way to do it. And when you do regain access to a gym and then you can really go all out. That’s a great way to think of it, is to keep the habits where they are, even if you have less time and less flexibility throughout the day with your schedule. Yeah, that is absolutely a great point. And one to stay optimistic about. Thinking of that time when we get to go outside and go on a bike ride with our favorite friends. So, it would be good to have that.

Brad Means: Listen, you have given us some wonderful advice today. You’ve inspired a lot of people too I suspect to keep up the good fight during these odd times. Dr. Moore, my heartfelt congratulations to you and your wife on your baby. I hope all goes well with both of you and soon all three of you. And we appreciate you being with us today.

Dr. Andrew Moore: Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much for having me on. It’s been a pleasure.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Dr. Andrew Moore, Professor of Kinesiology at Augusta University.

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