When It Comes To Working Out..More Isn't Better!

Exercise has always been plagued with the thought that working out harder is better. No Pain, No Gain! …Right? In fact, most people who do engage in exercise think that that unless your heart is pounding through your chest there’s a puddle of sweat on the floor, and you’re muscles are sore the next day, it falls short of a good workout. In fact, this attitude has now transferred to the popping up of specialty fitness clubs offering single-modality, al la carte, fitness classes. These small, corner gyms are offering everything you can think of to get you moving, in and out quickly, pay less, and, of course, all touting that they have the newest and best workout in town.


There are Crossfit, Rowing, Spinning, and Boxing Clubs, Bootcamps, and even old school Aerobic places, all serving the same menu of maximum effort: more, faster, higher, hitting it hard, and basically beating you up.


The truth is, this is a less effective way to workout and the likelihood of you getting injured is markedly increased. Statistics and research have shown that most people do report getting injured by exclusively engaging in this kind of training due to the fact that form and function are compromised in lieu of movement, (get it from point A to B with any means possible), too much weight or reps, and a ‘Just Do It’ mantra.


In addition, these facilities are generally staffed with coaches or instructors with little or no knowledge of the human body or joint mechanics, and the forces involved. How would you like a bicycle repairman working on your car? (nothing against bicycle repairmen)


More importantly, and the real deal folks is deeper than that and it involves your Physiology. That’s right, this ‘More is Better’ type of working out is doing more harm than you think under the surface by raising your cortisol levels, increasing oxidative damage and systemic inflammation, depressing your immune system and decreasing fat metabolism.


Less is More


Humans have evolved to walk a lot, sprint a bit, lift heavy a few times a week, eat, sleep, and recover. The gym really is a substitute for manual labor and a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle. The cornerstone of any exercise or fitness process should be low-level aerobic activity such as plain old long walks, and moderate resistance training without too much weight and more reps without strain.


This low-level stuff actually creates the foundation for the times you and your body wants to, and needs to, lift heavy or workout with more intensity without getting hurt and kick your metabolism into high gear.


 All of the behind the scenes players, such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, and even your vascular and nervous system prefer Progressive Challenge and Variation.

You get one skeleton to last a lifetime folks. One skeleton with its joints, cartilage, and muscles to propel you through life.


I love to exercise but not to the point that I am breaking it down and actually accelerating the aging process. Lifting too much too often or exercising at high-intensity every time is doing more harm than good. My, and hopefully your biggest goals should be to have the ability to walk a flight of stairs, reach up in the cupboard, and off a toilet seat without pain well into your 90’s.




Exercise is an inflammatory process to the body, and some degree of inflammation is necessary if you hope to get anything tangible out of a workout regimen. White blood cells, C-reactive protein, creatinine kinase, and cortisol all get elevated during and post-exercise. The flip side is that his is normal and natural. Muscle growth, strength, resiliency, and hypertrophy all get stronger via the inflammatory response by rebuilding its tissues and overloading the nervous to respond to future demands.


But, if you engage in High Intensity every single workout without mixing in the low to moderate stuff, you never give your body a chance to recover from the inflamed state. Worse yet, studies have shown that marathon runners post race display many of the blood profile markers as someone undergoing a heart attack and “there is increasing evidence that inflammation contributes to the atherosclerotic process.” -R.Ross

The same can be said for regularly, (or only) engaging in other highly intense workouts such as Crossfit and the other kick your but clubs.


Changing your workouts with appropriate Progression & Variation, strategically managing the intense workouts, and recovering with rest and good nutrition are critical. AND, always hold onto the fact that slow, long-duration stuff like walking should always for the foundation of your fitness plan. Get out there and enjoy the weather!



Related Topics:



The Effects of Physical Activity on Serum C-Reactive Protein and Inflammatory Markers

Systemic Inflammation

-Bill Leavitt

“Low-level aerobic exercise engages your energy systems and incrementally improves their functioning and efficiency. And while it does all that, it also physiologically and hormonally counters the effects of stress.”  ~Mark Sisson