Work Out Smarter, Not Harder

“Tell me, what kind of exercise can you see yourself doing when you get home?”

That question greeted many of us at the Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort during our Stansberry Immersion Week last week. Several of our subscribers and staff did personalized exercise assessments with exercise physiologists. The tests included a body composition scan along with cardio, muscle strength, and flexibility tests. Then they got results not just about their bodies, but about how to customize a plan that worked best for them.

My physiologist, Mike Hewitt, pulled out a sheet of paper titled “Exercise Prescription.” It looked vaguely like my Rx pad.

I thought about how individualized it was – and how easily I could fit this plan into my life. But more than that, I realized some of these lessons could apply to everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to visit Canyon Ranch.

The first lesson is one I’ve touched on many times: Dehydration is deadly.

It’s easy to forget about hydration. That’s particularly true as we age, since our bodies begin to lose the ability to regulate water and body salts in our kidneys.

That puts us at a higher risk of dehydration. In addition, we actually lose the ability to feel thirsty when we need water due to a lack of sensitivity in the receptors responsible for sending that signal to our brains.

If you’re age 50 or older, dehydration becomes an even greater risk simply because you don’t recognize when you’re thirsty as easily.

In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology, researchers demonstrated that folks respond differently to water intake. Some hit dehydration levels sooner than others, as measured by urine and blood analysis.

It’s important to understand “dehydration level.” This essentially means that the balance between water intake and output is negative. In other words, you’re losing more fluid than you’re taking in and your kidneys can no longer pull enough fluid from your body to keep up.

Dr. Param Dedhia wrote a great essay on the best way to hydrate – and it’s not with water.

The idea is that consuming foods containing not just water, but also nutrients, helps us better absorb the water. The chemical transporters in our gut tubes (because our whole digestive system is really just a tube, right?) are great at pulling in nutrients from what we eat. And water flows where the nutrients go. You might remember this from your days in chemistry class – it’s called osmosis. That’s why the best way to consume water is to take in nutrients with it.

Try to eat fruits and vegetables or drink broths to help hydrate you throughout the day, in addition to drinking water. Remember, you don’t need eight glasses. That advice is based on an outdated Navy study that doesn’t apply to the daily activities of regular folks.

Activity level, caffeine consumption, certain medications (like diuretics), and chronic illnesses like diabetes require extra hydration care, so you’ll need to increase your water intake to account for those conditions. A good way to check hydration level is to look at your urine – it should be a pale, nearly clear yellow. The darker it is, the more you need to hydrate.

Similarly, pay attention to how many times you pee every day – five to eight times is average. If you find yourself going fewer times, you’re likely dehydrated. But dehydration could also make you go more often. That’s because when you don’t have enough water, you feel irritation in your bladder, which makes you feel the need to go more often.

Headaches and daytime sleepiness may also indicate dehydration. So before reaching for the painkillers or taking a nap, try a glass of water first to see if your symptoms subside.

Once you’re properly hydrated, focus on the best way to maximize your time. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to improve your fitness.

Doing these short intervals tricks your body into thinking your heart’s at that higher rate for longer, so you get all the benefits of a much longer aerobic workout.

One of the exercise physiologists explained to my researcher an easy way to add in intervals. You can start by simply walking for a certain amount of time about four or five days a week. Two of those days, add in intervals – walk at a brisk pace for two or three minutes, then go up a hill at that pace for two or three minutes, then back to your brisk pace.

A good measure involves your heart rate to determine intensity. As we get older, our heart rates drop slightly, so the American College of Cardiology came up with this calculation that estimates heart rate:

(208 – (age * 0.7)) x 70% = low zone [That moderate-to-brisk pace]

(208 – (age * 0.7)) x 85% = high zone [That push on intense bursts]

The idea is to push yourself hard for two or three minutes at a time, then recover at a moderate-to-brisk pace in between. Repeat the cycle a few times for about 30 minutes, and you’ll get a great workout.

It works with walking, running, swimming, cycling… just find an activity you enjoy.

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 5, 2020