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Lack of exercise kills roughly as many as smoking, study says (latimes.com)
162 points by arjn on Feb 15, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 147 comments

To combat the broscience prevalent in this thread on what a good exercise regime looks like, here are some reviews of exercise science on the relationship between different activities and health.

Cardio, vigorous is better http://extremelongevity.net/2011/08/31/more-vigorous-exercis...

Resistance training, how much is optimal? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16287373

How much total activity? http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjourna...

My take on all this: It seems like you want to be burning at least 1000 calories a week. There have been benefits reported at higher levels but the first 1k calories are guaranteed to get you a large proportion of the benefits. A routine of lifting twice a week and doing rigorous cardio 2-3 days a week puts you comfortably in the 1000-1500 calories burned range.

To the people who are saying that the normal activity of everyday life is adequate, you are fooling yourself because you don't want to have to make changes. It's fine if you want to do that but please don't spread FUD to others who don't know any better. You are hurting them.

1000 calories a week seems a little bit low, but I'll admit that's just anecdotal - I'll do about 1kcal in a single 10 kilometre run.

In terms of fitness and general health, I notice a big difference if I'm getting regular (ie. most days of the week, allowing for 1 or 2 rest days) exercise of about half an hour, and at least one longer run/ride/whatever, out to about an hour or so. Take any excuse to do things the hard way when you're exercising - push up hills, do sprints, to intervals etc, and you'll notice an amazing difference.

Only downside to all this exercise is that you really need your 8 hours of sleep a night to recover.

Closer to 600 to 750 calories for a 10k but I agree 1000 calories for a week is quite low.

Depends on weight.

It does indeed. And elevation traveled. And pace. Per the runner's world calculator they'd have to be 215 lbs. running 10 min per mile Which I suppose is possible.

Three years I don't miss a single week of workout: great that it creates long term benefits, but the short term ones are already incredible: I'm better at parenting (I can carry my daughter for hours without any side effect for example), more able to focus at work, sleep quality is better, stress level much lower, and I look better. All this for 40 minutes a day 5 days per week. The best deal of my life. My routine is monday,wednesday,friday: 15 min cardio + bench press and squat (using a power cage, high volume for both exercise). Tuesday,thursday: 20 min high intensity interval training + chinups or pullups or over the head press depending on the day. Hint: the time I use for the exercises is small compared to the amount of sets I try to do per session because I took the extreme way of an home office that has an included gym. Pic: http://antirez.com/misc/office.jpg Hint2: don't train to failure.

Regarding hint 2, it depends on what you're aiming for and also personal style. Training to failure while rotating muscle groups on a 3-day cycle is a superb way to see results and increase strength quickly. It is also a much more rewarding way to train for some of us than to avoid pushing it.

It also depends on the exercise. I will bench to failure any day if I have a spot, but I really don't like squat to failure.

Agreed, with a solid regime there will be an initial cost (DOMS and fatigue) but that only lasts for a week or so, then the benefits start to rack up very soon after. The best part is the order- the very first thing you earn is feeling better, which is the most important benefit to me!

FWIW, I'm on the "stronglifts" program, plus chunks of 30-min medium-high intensity cardio where I can fit it.

How much does your daughter weigh?

10 kg :-)

What's enough exercise? I walk 20 minutes a day. That should be good enough or do I need to turn into a fitness nut and work on strengthening every muscle in my body, eating raw nuts or whatever and run 5 miles a day?

Like if the tradeoff for ultra-longevity is a shitty life of being obsessively active I think I'll pick a shorter life. If just a reasonable amount of exercise is ok and I don't have to work to look like I should be on the cover of a magazine, then I can do that.

Edit: reasonable question gets downvoted.


"A 15-year observational study of 52,000 adults found that the highest degree of survival and health was found from running less than 20 miles per week, in runs of 30 to 45 minutes over three or four days, at about an 8:30 to 10:00 pace. The benefits decrease at amounts greater than that."

That seems reasonable, but running causes shin and knee injuries. I cannot run without injuring myself. When I did run I ran maybe a few times a week, at reasonable rates for reasonable distances, even using a couch-to-runner guide. My shins ended up hurting so bad for months afterward. Overweight people cannot run.

Also I love running, I just cannot do it. It always results in long term pain.

You probably can run, but it will take a long slow process. Can you walk a mile? If so, do that several times a week. Gradually increase to two miles. Then jog (very very very slow run) for a a few yards at a time during the walk. Gradually increase the run distance. 6 months to 2 years later, you'll be able to run that whole two miles.

A huge barrier to fitness is that it is typically taught and promoted by those who find it easy, and they really can't understand how difficult it is. However, if you persist over a long period of time you can get enormous benefits. And this gradual approach means it is not painful - in fact the slogan ought to be 'no pain maximizes gain'.

My shins ended up hurting so bad for months afterward. Overweight people cannot run.

Running should not hurt. We were Born to Run, like it says in the title of the book.

Shin pain tells me that you may be running with bad form, impacting the ground like a pogo stick. Consider running barefoot. Read Run Barefoot Run Healthy.

If only it was so simple. The right advice should be "See an orthopedic specialist and then a physical therapist."

From my experience with running injuries:

1. Strengthen your core 2. Strengthen your thigh muscles 3. Strengthen ankle and foot muscles 4. Get the right shoes that work for you

Running barefoot is one possible way of achieving the above. But running barefoot also comes with its own problems, including increased risk of certain other injuries.

If I have to hazard giving advice, I'd say to the guy with the shin-pain what my physical therapist told me: build strength with low-impact exercises, maintain aerobic health while you do that via low-impact aerobic swimming/water-running/biking/tennis/climbing/xc-skiing/etc. etc., then once you have recovered from your injury, slowly ease into running.

That sounds like an expensive way to do it. Shin splints are incredibly common for runners of all types, and a lot of the solutions are well-understood.

1. Get fitted for proper running shoes. There should be shops nearby that will watch your running style, and advise the right shape of shoe for your foot.

2. I wouldn't recommend running 'barefoot' full-time to start with, either with something like Vibrams or literally shoeless, but this is actually what fixed my shin splint problems. Most people who haven't trained in running are terrible heel-planters - striking the ground first with the heel, then rolling through. That jars your shins and legs (and upper body etc, it's all connected) something fierce. Running barefoot pretty much forces you to knock that shit off, and the results are quite dramatic.

So maybe don't go straight for barefoot, but either do a few short runs on grass shoeless, and pay attention to the way you're running. Aim to run on the balls of your feet only, and slowly relax into a flatter running style, but DON'T HEEL PLANT.

Running is a "low-impact exercise" if done right.

Shin pain can also come from "compartment syndrome", where the muscle sheath is to tight for the muscles when the are expanded by exercise. I believe that the marathoner Mary Decker had to have an operation to treat that. I'm pretty sure a co-worker suffered it years ago--not originally from running but from an Israeli folk-dancing class at her synagogue.

I lost 80 pounds through walking->jogging->running over the course of about a year, going from 310 to 230.

There are so many steps in between walking 20 minutes a day and running 5 miles a day. Like, for example, I'm sure adding a 7 minute workout to your daily 20 minutes would do a world of good over the long run.


Yeah, well those exercises are not at all appealing to me. Jumping jacks are not for overweight people. Crunches injure your back, etc. In fact, half these exercises look like they risk injury or look like they hurt something in the long run. If walking isn't good enough, I'm ok with that, but that's all I'm going to do.

I imagine most people here are in their young twenties and don't understand what happens to bodies when they get older. There's just no way any of these activities are realistic. Calorie moderation and walking should be good enough.

Holy excuses. Look, no one here really cares if you exercise or not. Walking is better than nothing, though.

Anecdotal evidence, but my parents, both in their mid-60s, are some of the most active people I know. Biking, hiking, skiing, you name it. And, neither of them is skinny. There's definitely some luck (good genes, etc.) involved in them being in good shape, but the rest is because they've put forth a bit of effort their whole lives towards being active.

Yes, in that case, starting with calorie moderation is key. In fact, even if you don't do anything else, this alone should bring your weight down to managable levels where you can start doing exercises that look injury-prone now.

But exercise would make it much easier, because it releases dopamines, which makes you feel good, which lowers your food craving.

(I'm not in my early twenties and I've been overwheight for the most of my life.)

You came here angry with the world because walking 20 minutes a day doesn't make a dent in the fat and running hurts. Well, here's the response.

Of course running hurts if you are overweight. Your bones and tendons are not made to support that much weight and neither are your muscles if you have been neglecting them. Bodies get neglected, that's what happens to them when they get old. If you really love running like you said, then drop some weight and start running. Do, don't cry. Walk more. Use nordic walking poles. Swimming is an excellent low-impact sport and so is water running. Walking 20 minutes with decent pace burns around 500-600kcal for someone weighting 120kg. That's a half a can of Pringles. You need to be really careful with what you eat if you want to drop weight with just that.

Nearer 50 than 60 here. Run four to nine miles every weekend day (three this weekend, that is), walk an hour at least two days a week, generally 30 most others. I don't do weights because I never got in the habit when younger; I also ran more when young and wouldn't have wanted to add body mass--running was just better under 170 lb.

What happens to your body as you get older depends in part on what you do with it when younger. The one thing I don't do now that I occasionally did when younger is push-ups. Something in my left shoulder doesn't care for them. No doubt there's a fix for that, but I don't think it makes sense to pursue one--there's no MLB contract on the line.

Edit: reasonable question gets downvoted.

Your question was kind of emotionally charged, and it sounded like you were getting upset, which is what probably set off the downvotes.

if the tradeoff for ultra-longevity is a shitty life of being obsessively active I think I'll pick a shorter life.

Being active doesn't have to suck. Sports are fun, man.

They've never been fun for me. Social anxiety mixed with general incompetence and physical pain. Yeah lot's of fun.

So. There are sports which don't require competing with other people in any real sense - take a look at rock climbing, hiking, riding bikes, SCUBA diving, tai chi, yoga, dancing etc etc. Some of these can be solitary if you don't like big groups.

On the physical pain side of things - that's just the hump you have to get over, and I agree it sucks. Once your body is trained to do a basic minimum of exercise, the endorphins outweigh the painful aspects, and it feels good man. Like, really good.

To your original question, I suspect 20min a day walking is a bit low, both in terms of your overall exercise per week, and intensity. Intensity counts for a lot in fitness, IMO it's worth pushing it a couple of days a week, go for a run or something. Or join a club that does some kind of fun exercise.

Strong vote for rock climbing (to grandparent). It's an engaging puzzle that gives you a full body workout! And can be done by yourself or with a group. Check for a gym nearby.

Sports are fun, man.

No, winning is fun.

Winning is fun, but just playing sports is too, and I participate in plenty of sports that are not competitive, or competitive sports organized in a noncompetitive fashion (for example, constantly rotating or re-balancing teams)

Ah, spoken like a true loser

Just as a counter-point to "shitty life of being obsessively active" - I've noticed my mental health is much better now that I've become regularly active. Plus, it's amazing how much of the city/country you experience when you're on a long run.

Probably not. Unless you're walking "vigorously", which most people tend not to do when they're just trying to get from A to B.

The good news is that it is very easy to add some form of exercise into your life. You don't have to become a gym rat, the key is to find a hobby that you actually enjoy and that involves some physical activity: hiking, skiing, surfing, join a local soccer league, etc. I highly recommend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It's like playing chess with your body; raw athleticism, strength, and speed are always defeated by intelligence and technique. It's also great stress relief.

The thing a lot of people don't realize, I think, is that short bursts of intensity can yield a lot- and you DON'T need to be too obsessive about it. Just lift heavy stuff, and do stuff that gets your heart rate elevated for a few minutes- sprints, etc.

You don't need to micromanage everything. Some intense workouts here and there give you the energy you'll have to micromanage the stuff that you WANT to micromanage.

I think you can establish what's enough by how you feel, provided you have a minimum amount of sensitivity. e.g. notice how you feel now if you did some uphill walking and lost your breath earlier today.

Calling activity that raises your heart rate exercise makes it seem like something you have to go out of your way to do, like to join a gym or buy a machine.

It seems we benefit from having a healthy lifestyle -- like walking or biking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing sports for fun, playing with our kids, running around with pets instead of just walking them, gardening, and so on. Our evolutionary ancestors probably lived like (though I can't cite sources) that and led our bodies to evolve to thrive best with that kind of activity.

So many people are big on paleo diets. I wonder when a paleo lifestyle will become popular.

It is fallacious to say 'just because our ancestors lived that way, it is good'. There is seldom sufficient evidence to back up such claims. Paleo diets [1] are not necessarily good. Nor are paleo-lifestyles [2]. Even several claims of paleo-enthusiasts like Christopher McDougal ('Born to Run') and Jared Diamond are disputed and contradicted by research [3].

A posteriori, there may be 'evolutionary'-type reasons for say, our body's over-eagerness to eat sugary stuff [4]. That doesn't mean that you can attribute everything to evolution without sufficient evidence.

The truth is what it is: lack of exercise and poor diet both contribute to increased risk of diseases. You can appeal to 'our ancestors' lifestyle' as reliably as you can appeal to say, the benefits of 'biblical diet'. Both are identically fallacious.

(As an aside, there are several comments on different posts in HN that wrongly apply evolutionary principles to everything from coding practices to behavioral traits [5]!)

[1] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-paleo-diet-hal...

[2] http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/is-barefoot-style-r... [3]http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/09/history-society [4]http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/opinion/evolutions-sweet-t... [5]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7050286

The 'main thrust' of Paleo is simply eating whole foods in a state of freshness and from quality sources. (that being arguably more common before industrialization and the marketing of 'prepared' foods that come pre-seasoned and individually wrapped, etc.)

As an aside, pre-seasoned processed food can give us a false sense of variety because even though most packaged foods have corn syrup or wheat or corn or one of those popular foods, by adding different spices or making different 'foods' out of it such as pizzas or other recipe transformations, it makes the same basic ingredients taste and seem different. But if you focus on eating whole foods with somewhat minimal processing or transformation into recipes, you can readily realize how much true variety you're obtaining.

"eating whole foods in a state of freshness and from quality sources. (that being arguably more common before industrialization"

Arguably, indeed. Before the invention of refrigeration, the average "state of freshness" probably was a lot less than what we now call fresh. Also, "quality sources" will have been rare in the not so uncommon years with harsh winters, failed harvests, etc.

Zuk's critique of the paleo diet has itself been soundly criticized, e.g. [1] and [2]. Of course she's gotten many details right; the food that is available today doesn't resemble Paleo-era foods very much, so how can we truly recreate their diet? She cherry-picked studies though, just like Ancel Keyes did when he declared that dietary fat was killing us.

As for barefoot running, the barefoot shoes are seen as a magic bullet, and of course that's not the case. They can be a guide to suggest that you fix your gait but if you don't want to do the work, you can harm yourself as much in Vibram Five Fingers as in Nikes or Adidas.

Paleo-izing everything is in fashion. That doesn't mean it's all wrong though.

[1] http://philosophyandpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/defe... [2] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-it-all-just-a-paleofantasy...

It is fallacious to say 'just because our ancestors lived that way, it is good'.

Well, sure, if you're claiming it's some sort of lemma in a proof. Stuff our ancestors used to do is likely to be neutral or good for you, due to the way evolution works. The key is likely. I'd agree with you that it's a fallacy to hold "ancestors used to do it" as some kind of oracle.

You can appeal to 'our ancestors' lifestyle' as reliably as you can appeal to say, the benefits of 'biblical diet'. Both are identically fallacious.

There should be a name for the meta-fallacy of treating what should be a hazy rule of thumb as a mathematical identity.

>Stuff our ancestors used to do is likely to be neutral or good for you, due to the way evolution works.

That's not true when it comes to age related diseases like cancer or heart disease. Through most of mankind's evolution these diseases did not affect our procreation rate at all.

Evolution optimizes for procreation not for longevity. It is very likely that an ample supply of burgers, fries and fat cheese (especially during winter) would have led to higher birth rates not lower ones.

It could well be that much of our ancestors' lifestyle is poison for anyone over 50.

> Evolution optimizes for procreation not for longevity.

Incorrect. Evolution optimises for propagation of genes. Procreation is one but not the element of that process.

Think about this way: if you are living by yourself in the forest and have octuplets, then you are very good at procreation; if you die immediately afterwards, then you are evolutionarily unfit despite your procreative abilities, because none of your young will survive to pass on their genes. For creatures like humans -- born with helpless young -- the person who has two children and lives long enough to ensure that they can pass on their own genes is more evolutionarily fit than the person who procreates like mad but lets all their children die.

In our evolutionary environment, post-procreative individuals played vital roles in ensuring the survival of the young: taking care of children while their parents were off hunting and gathering; preparing foodstuffs; passing on lore about which plants were dangerous to eat, etc. In this way, the presence of elders facilitated the propagation of genes -- right up to the point where the care and maintenance of said elders becomes such a drain on resources that it begins to diminish rather than enhance the survival and procreation prospects for the young. That's quite a long time, however, so generally speaking, genetic lines that produce long-lived healthy individuals who enhance the survival prospects of the young will be more successful than genetic lines which don't.

If most people have children in their 20s, there is very little evolutionary advantage to living beyond, say, 60. Until then, they will have passed on all their valuable wisdom.

I think the key point is that ability to help ensure survival and reproduction of great-grandchildren matters (evolutionarily) half as much as the same of grandchildren, which matters half as much as the same of children. Though in principle there's nothing preventing continued ability to have children in later years...

I understand the argument, I just don't believe that surviving elders were actually helpful for the procreation and survival of their offspring during most of evolution. Not beyond an age where cancer and heart disease start to play a role.

Older men can have children in principle, but older women can not. So those men would have to compete with younger men for the remaining fertile women. The birth rate of a woman would probably not change just because there are more old men available to her.

"I understand the argument, I just don't believe that surviving elders were actually helpful for the procreation and survival of their offspring during most of evolution. Not beyond an age where cancer and heart disease start to play a role."

I don't think I was disagreeing with you, there. My point was that regardless of how much benefit an ancestor can give to their descendants, if you have declining fertility beyond some age the benefits of doing so attenuate with time.

I do agree with you that the benefit attenuates with time, but we seem to disagree a great deal about steepness of that attenuation. You're talking about great-grandchildren. I believe that in a hunter-gatherer society the benefit of having parents goes to zero within 20 years after reaching adulthood and there is never any benefit to having gandparents.

You severely underestimate the value of having grandparents. In traditional societies, children are raised by grandparents and great-grandparents at least as often as by parents.

The reason is simple: hunting and gathering is extraordinarily difficult when you've got a baby on your knee. If you reproduce at 20 and now you have to take care of a baby, then the people who are in peak hunting-and-gathering condition are suddenly unable to find food. Solution: leave the baby with the 40-year-old grandparents, and go off to hunt/gather.

Problem is, a lot of 40-year-olds are still in pretty good hunting-and-gathering condition, and won't be maximising the group's survival by sitting on their duffs doing baby-guarding duty. The solution: leave the baby with the 60-year-old great-grandparents, and go off to hunt/gather.

This isn't conjectural: this is how traditional societies actually work.

Now, the 60-year-olds definitely aren't in particularly great hunting/gathering condition, so taking care of children is a good way they can contribute to group survival. The children can grow up and become self-sufficient under their tutelage. There's little evolutionary need another generation beyond them, so you'd expect mortality to increase rapidly after 60. Which of course is exactly what we see.

>There's little evolutionary need another generation beyond them, so you'd expect mortality to increase rapidly after 60

That's exactly my point. Hunter-gatherer diet didn't need to work very well against cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer's and hence we shouldn't expect it to promote what we consider longevity today.

But I think you're overestimating the value of grandparents for breast feeding toddlers. Population growth wasn't very rapid back then because most kids died at birth or very soon after. So there weren't actually that many kids around I think.

I wasn't saying it couldn't attenuate faster; I was just saying it clearly attenuates. I think that clearly one could conceive of a hunter gatherer existence where the grandparents do provide help to grandchildren - I have vague recollection of something about a modern indigenous society where grandparents watch grandchildren while parents hunt and gather, but it's sufficiently vague that I'm not confident in asserting anything about its reliability beyond mention. Again, though, when discussing evolution we're talking about human-design-space, not specifics about individual human cultures.

>Again, though, when discussing evolution we're talking about human-design-space, not specifics about individual human cultures.

Yes, in principle, and that is definitely a good point. But with hindsight we can observe that the part of the "design space" that includes 90 year olds was never before explored, and hence evolution tells us nothing about whether or not hunter-gatherer diets are good for longevity.

I wouldn't have put it quite that way, but I predominately agree.

"Older men can have children in principle, but older women can not."

I didn't mean "ignoring social factors" - I meant "in theoretical human-design-space". Women don't produce new ova, but why does that necessarily have to be the case? Most cells in the body divide regularly.

That's not true when it comes to age related diseases like cancer or heart disease.

Well of course! Whether it's "good" or "bad" is kinda hazy and contextual as well. A gene that might encourage heart disease at age 50 might also make us better at spearing ferocious animals at age 19.

It is very likely that an ample supply of burgers, fries and fat cheese (especially during winter) would have led to higher birth rates not lower ones.

I know of someone from the pacific island of Yap, and his entire generation was stunted in their growth from his culture's encounter with American junk food.

It could well be that much of our ancestors' lifestyle is poison for anyone over 50.

So then it's fine for young hipsters to practice?

>his entire generation was stunted in their growth from his culture's encounter with American junk food.

That seems very hard to believe. Americans are rather tall on average.

He told us unequivocally that his generation was noticeably shorter. Some searching turned up lots of mentions of malnutrition on pacific islands when local diets were disrupted, though it's not so easy to find mentions of Yap specifically. Here's one mentioning the Marshalls.


I suspect you are protecting some cherished preconceived notions.

What I'm saying is that food can have bad consequences in terms of cancer or heart health but not necessarily stunt growth. The unhealthy American diet (tons of sugar, salt, meat and animal fat) is not known for stunting growth, and your evidence for it is more than thin: One sentence in a book written by someone with a degree in political science.

American diet is not exactly a cherished notion of mine either. Neither is it my diet of choice nor am I American.

Stunting affects about 147 million children worldwide.

This long term under nourishment is very common. The WFP (world food program) gives estimates of 227 million for Africa and 553 million people in Asia and Pacific.

What happened when local diets were disrupted? Were local foods bought in return for much lower quality food? Was malnutrition made worse? Or did we just start documenting it better?

- Hey Zag, I made a discovery: if you cook meat, it's easier to eat and safer!

- I don't know, Bog. My parents have always eaten meat raw, and they lived healthily to the old, ripe age of 26.

It appears that our ancestors have been cooking food for 1.9 million years (i.e. the entire time that Homo Sapiens have been around).

To further illustrate your point about too much enthusiasm for explaining things with evolutionary adaptation:


To build on this - there are a lot of things that can be low impact exercise and worked into normal life.

For me, a big one is dancing. Nothing formal, just going to a club or hanging out at freinds' places and having a dance party. It's fun for me (which is the point) - I don't think of it as exercise normally, just some socializing. Doing that once or twice a week regularly had a noticeable impact on my overall level of happiness and my diet plan. If I don't get to do it, I miss it and feel overly energetic, like too much coffee. (You know the "i didn't get enough exercise feeling).

Another is playing with dogs and kids. I am responsible for neither, but have friends with one or both, so I get lots of access. It's a fun time, just being silly and bonding with people I think of as family. And as a benefit I get some exercise.

Finally, as spodek mentions above - working in some manual versions of daily tasks can help a heck of a lot. Example: I live in the midwest, so lately I've been shoveling a lot of snow the old fashioned way. Sure I could use a snowblower, but doing it with a shovel is better exercise. Besides, the days I need to do it I know the roads will be crappy and slow, the gym may not even be open, and generally getting exercise via normal channels may be hard, so spending 50% more time on snow removal pays off overall, since I'll have more time to do things anyway. Other times where the slow manual way of doing something to sneak in some exercise are abundant and should be considered with similar "TCO" style reasoning.

The paleo lifestyle actually goes further than just diet. For example, the 'Primal' approach is very popular: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/

I studied anthropology as an undergrad and learned that hunter gathers actually eat very little meat, so that link seems incorrect about eating lots of meat. Animal protein was/is at best something like 30% of their diet. A lot of us have had agriculturally active ancestors for many, many generations. I don't doubt that many modern diets are completely unhealthy, but this paleo diet stuff seems a bit silly. Although if the evidence is contrary to what I think, I'll be convinced. I'm not yet though. It just strikes me as the latest fad.

I don't really have any training in this area (I didn't study anthropology, history, biology or nutrition in school), but while the implementation of paleo might be flawed the principle makes sense to me - eat what we evolved to eat, exercise like we evolved to exercise. At least that's how I see it. I'm not all to familiar with what it's actually like.

I think that we could probably all go for eating less meat and a lot more fruits and vegetables. The flesh of other animals tastes so good though!

Whenever I've been in shape I haven't stuck to any diet or strict regiment. It's pretty easy to loose weight (in principle, not in practice) if you do some moderate exercise (like take a run a few times a week, take the stairs, etc) and avoid restaurants and processed foods. I think when you start cooking for yourself, you'll end up eating a lot more raw "real" food and will find it hard to cook the really unhealthy stuff you might feel totally fine about ordering. It just kind of works itself out.

Humans survived because we evolved to eat literally everything. From the tiniest of seeds to whale blubber. Fruit, bugs, cows, wheat, ocelots, cactus, pufferfish. If it moves or grows humans likely survived on it at one time or another.

There are clearly diets that allow for more than survival. Just be careful saying we evolved to do X. It's easy to get your causal arrows mixed up.

We evolved to eat very few parts of the pufferfish, as I understand it.

"will find it hard to cook the really unhealthy stuff you might feel totally fine about ordering"

Yeah, that doesn't work for me. If I'm not thinking about health, I'm happy loading up on the cheese and fried things to a probably unhealthy degree - especially when I'm making it myself.

Try to home-cook an authentic McNugget.

I don't order McNuggets when I'm out...

Is the number of generations our ancestors have been agriculturally active enough to have an evolutionary effect on how our bodies metabolize food? At most is seems it has been 14000 years, whereas we've been around for several hundreds of thousands of years. I don't know the answer there.

I suspect it's enough to have small effects but not enough for complex adaptations (requiring multiple mutations to stack). Actually, I think I read that adult lactose tolerance evolved during that time? I'd also guess that it's plenty of time for a lot of evolution to have gone on in our gut flora.

14,000 years is about 700 generations. That's not a little bit.

What about the hunter gatherers that don't have access to as many non-meat options? Inuits, for example, ate mostly meat (with up to 75% of their calories coming from fat) because they were limited in what plants they could gather.

I think the more likely answer is that humans are capable of surviving on all sorts of foods, not "there is one hunter gatherer diet and it contained very little meat."

even hunter-gatherers ate mostly roots and tubers and nuts.

The 5,000 year old "ice man" scientists have named Otzi had heart disease so I'd call the paleo diet healthy is misinformation.

You can't draw any conclusions about something as random as heart disease based on a sample size of one.

No but it seems paleo diet enthusiasts indicate any heart disease was non-existent due to a paleo diet.


Decades of research by Dr. Loren Cordain and his scientific colleagues demonstrate that hunter-gatherers typically were free from the chronic illnesses and diseases that are epidemic in Western populations, including:

Obesity Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis) Type 2 diabetes Cancer Autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.) Osteoporosis Acne Myopia (nearsightedness), macular degeneration, glaucoma Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, gastric reflux Gout

You forgot to take into account the word "typically".

OK then, but that works both ways if I can't prove it's not totally good paleo diet proponents can't prove it's super healthy.

It's always amazing how much hate exercise gets on the internet. The majority of the comments on here are - well this or that should count as exercise not actually having to go and do some specific "exercise" training.

As someone who did not used to like to exercise and now do I think it's just a whole wad of cognitive dissonance for people who largely are out of shape (by the way that /= fat) and don't want to feel like they should spend time doing specific body improving exercises.

it's the same mental rut as people stuck in a terrible dead-end job, or in abusive / shitty relationships. this is not a value judgment on what type of job/relationship is good; these people are suffering. some are highly paid, or have the outward appearances of a good relationship.

they have self-imposed a set of beliefs, a system of beliefs built up through unfortunate circumstances that have no bearing on wider reality, that limit their ability to improve their circumstances. it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

their mind will do all sorts of logical gymnastics to avoid admitting the truth or taking action. you can see it in this thread. people just make things up out of thin air, convinced of their truth. i was tempted to reply to a couple but then i saw your comment.

it's like living in the matrix or something. it's so hard to explain because smart people can fall for it too. to this day, i find myself slipping into these self-defeating thought cycles every once in a while. maybe it's some kind of stockholm syndrome.

Victim-blaming AND false consciousness! Great way of disclaiming any responsibility for helping anyone in that situation.

> disclaiming any responsibility

it's not my responsibility to offer to help strangers unsolicited. in fact, it's kind of rude.

Some people plain don't like being told they could do things better, it's a matter of ego. You could argue that this negative reaction is inflated by the hyper-social internet culture we're all swimming in these days, where it's easy to compare each facet of your life to the collective's best. Not to mention that a lot of people associate exercise with body image, and that comes with its own boatload of issues.

I'm definitely with you that all the people who want super easy activities to count as exercise are speaking from cognitive dissonance. I will say however that I've been lifting fairly regularly for a decent amount of time and I still see it as tedious.

A lot of people associate exercise with pain, or the misery of compulsory sport at school (which often comes with a side order of sanctioned bullying and abuse).

hold on, let's back up a step. getting up and walking around a few times a week shouldn't be associated with pain or bullying or abuse.

if it is, you are almost certainly suffering from a mental illness (for able-bodied people, obviously).

this is not a troll. please take a step back and realize that 'normal' people should not have a problem with going outside for a walk. please come back into reality.

Painful? No. Boring? Absolutely. I think half the problem with exercise as adults is that there's little to no mental stimulation involved in the process (provided one isn't playing a sport), and modern culture has inundated us with so much noise that many don't know how to handle a prolonged period where they aren't working and aren't entertained.

I absolutely agree. It was only after I started listening to podcasts that I stopped finding running so boring. Even music I find exciting wasn't interesting enough.

That's exactly one good reason to do it.

You've already mentioned the solution: Play a sport!

This is back to "what counts as exercise"; I was referring to team sport and gym environment and running. Not "going outside for a walk", which is in the category of the parent post of "things people want to count as exercise that don't really".

Its because of the way exercise is sold - I have found one really awesome benefit of resistance training that no one ever talks about - insanely increased libido.

If you are out of shape and just try a few deadlifts you will see the difference and will have hard time staying away from the gym.

Really? Every time I see exercise brought up on HN, there are no shortage of people who are praising how exercise have changed their life. And if people are talking about leading a balanced and happy life, having an active life/exercising definitely gets brought up. It doesn't even have to be related for someone to bring it up: "Your dog died? I'm sorry about that. You should try exercising, that usually cheers me up."

I've never enjoyed exercise. As a young child I would feel horrible after physical exertion. For years I heard things like: grow up, grow a pair, get used to it, you just need to toughen up, and so on.

In my early teen years I ran long distance track but never felt well during or after a meet. I had to stop.

Fast forward to my late 30s and I get diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (obstructive) [1]. It's genetic (I've been tested). At this point, even mild exercise over a period of time (a week or so) leads to congestive heart failure (CHF). I have little doubt I was suffering from lighter symptoms as far back as childhood.

There are some people who cannot exercise. I so want to do something to help ease stress. For me, however, exercise == stress. If I lifted weights two days a week and ran for three, I'd end up in the hospital. As it is, I can walk a few times a week for about 30 minutes.

There are zebras in the world. People should be careful about taking advice from discussion boards. See your doctor before starting any serious exercise program.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertrophic_cardiomyopathy

This is why I always jog with a cigarette.

No joke - One of my friends was amazed the day he was at another friend's house and noticed that she had one of those great-big ashtrays attached to her treadmill to allow walking and smoking at the same time...

The math checks out. You're good to go.

I used to take long walks with my cigarettes sometimes. And I knew guys in the army who'd chug cigarettes before and after running.

Note that the fact "Lack of exercise kills roughly as many as smoking" says almost nothing about the danger of smoking compared to lack of exercise, unless you happen to know the rates of each.

But it does say some about where we should be focusing our marginal effort in terms of encouraging/discouraging behaviors for optimal public health. How much of a difference we can make in each is the other piece missing, but that would involve looking at specific proposed interventions.

From 2012... Here's the referenced article from The Lancet


Half an hour of brisk walking five times a week would do the trick.

Good to know I'm satisfying the bare minimum for not dying.

That lines up pretty well with the recommendation of 7,000 steps per day:


Fitbit's default goal of 10,000 seems to work well, and I walk very fast everywhere as long as there's not ice on the ground.

In this thread, a large majority falls to realize that diet has little to do with exercise. As in, no diet can fix your sedentary car commute desk job health problems.

The obsession with diet seems to be rooted in a desire to avoid exercise. I'd wish people would get a grip because the paleo and other nonsense is a breeding ground for the kind of blatant ignorance from which anti-vaccine and homeopathy hails.

Oh great, now not exercising in bars is going to be banned :(

I got a Fitbit in January. I log all of the food I eat in the app and it (roughly) calculates how many calories I'm burning through walking or running, plus the passively burnt calories. It's now clear to me why people not measuring tend not to be able to lose weight. They simply underestimate how much they need to exercise, and overestimate how much they can eat. It's an easy trap to fall into. I've had days where eating one thing too many would blow my calorie budget unless I went for a half hour walk to compensate for it.

All I thought was, that's all? I would have expected lack of exercise killed many more.

Another article to forward bosses with purchase orders for treadmill desks attached. :)

Another aspect to exercise is the mental health aspect. I find that 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity clears my mind and I often come up with inspirations to a problem I am working on after working out. I think regular exercise helps maintain mental acuity and balance.

My understanding is that this is pretty well supported by studies, too - regular exercise leads to improved mental function.

I don't exercise as I yet have to see data showing me that exercise will increase lifespan by longer than the time invested doing it. Add the opportunity cost of the lost time to the picture as well. Same with sleep. A couple of hours less sleep is a pretty significant increase in real and meaningful lifespan. Will sleeping 8 hours increase your lifespan by a bigger percentage? No, not really. What I definitely think is stupid is overeating and then running to the gym to "burn" the excess calories. First, exercise makes you hungry. Second, are you aware of the vomitories in the Roman Empire - this isn't much different. Every expert will tell you that nutrition is more important than exercise. To me, studies about exercise are low quality as people who work out usually watch what they eat as well. Also, it could be the lower abdominal circumference of those who work out, which is a good health predictor. Anyway, I think walking 20-30 mins a day and having sex is what is natural to us. Anything else leads to tear and wear (especially, cartilage), increased metabolism, and aerobic exercise is a significant source of reactive oxygen species, so, you really need to load up on antioxidants before such workout. The slower your metabolism is, the longer you will potentially live (extend odds of getting cancer, hitting the Hayflick limit later, etc.). Intermittent fasting as a caloric restriction regimen seems to be the best option of life extension, which means, two meals a day, even better with one (Warrior Diet). Not having to worry about snacks and eating so often also extends your meaningful lifespan. I'm sure some gym nazis will downvote me, but whatever - I've invested enough time researching different alternatives of having longer and happier life and I know what's best. The only thing I know I should be doing better is stretching. I highly recommend The Longevity Project book - it debunks a lot of myths. Good Calories, Bad Calories is also great although it has a lot of enemies especially in the face of vegetarians and vegans. I believe in it's main point as I've increased my caloric intake by hundreds of calories a day, but my weight has actually decreased. I'm not saying all that Taubes says is right, but if there's one thing I got from the book is the realization that human metabolism is oversimplified, it really is not a simple arithmetic formula with just addition and subtraction. Hormones, for example, are very important, and you can talk to people with thyroid disease (hypo or hyper function) to hear how eating less can make you gain weight and how eating more can still make you lose weight. Due to environmental toxins (including those in foods such as endocrine disruptors, antibiotics, etc.), things are getting more and more complicated. Add the fact that our gut microbiota is totally out of whack and things get ugly.

> I don't exercise as I yet have to see data showing me that exercise will increase lifespan by longer than the time invested doing it. Add the opportunity cost of the lost time to the picture as well

That's double counting. If exercise time gets you the same increased lifespan as time invested doing it, then the "time" factor cancels. So there is no opportunity cost -- you get more life for "spending" life.

> Second, are you aware of the vomitories in the Roman Empire

Not a real thing, other than the architectural term. Nothing to do with regurgitation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomitorium

While your personal mileage may vary, I find my quality of life immensely increased with regular exercise.

Science supports it -- exercise helps mood, life quality of insomniacs, increase happiness, reduce anxiety, and many other positive qualities. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/exercise-happiness.htm has links to all these studies.)

I encourage you to do as you wish with your life. I, however, will continue to put my time in. Preferably in high intensity cardio exercise 2-3x/wk, and 1-2 strength training sessions per week.

FWIW, the "life extension foundation" seems to support exercise. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag96/feb96-fitness.htm

To me exercise in the gym is wasted time, not productive time, and that's why my logic isn't flawed. If I have a better use of my time, but hit the gym for some expected benefit, then it's not the best use of my time. Some people may need exercise to feel good while others (like me), don't. If you rely on exercise for your mood (thanks to the endorphins release), then you're becoming dependent on it and it becomes an addiction. I personally fall asleep in less than 2 minutes. I forgot to mention that team sports is a different thing. I always enjoy playing soccer with my friends and children.

Regarding "exercise", if you ask Dr. Weil, walking 20-30 minutes or doing garden work is the best exercise - that's what the Okinawans or the Sardinians do. I think a walk is good enough to stabilize your blood sugar after a meal (even just 10 minutes of walk do miracles) and allow you lymph to flow.

Exercise also increases IGF-1, which is without much doubt negative for longevity: http://blog.wellnessfx.com/2013/09/04/igf-1-trade-performanc...

Also, higher muscle mass means increased basal metabolic rate, which affects the lifespan potential negatively.

Progress & a victory for the anit-smoking campaigns, in a sense. Just think how many people smoking was killing before it was demonized.

I find these kind of news worrying, but for the wrong reasons.

This is more about pushing an agenda, maybe increasing health insurance premiums and blaming people.

Rate of death is still 100% for humans, regardless of what you do.

Sure, maybe it's healthier to work standing or I don't know, but the end result is the same.

Not to mention health problems caused by exercise itself. Or even worse, weekend exercisers that go and overexert themselves then causing a heart attack.

Cognitive dissonance?

>Not to mention health problems caused by exercise itself. Or even worse, weekend exercisers that go and overexert themselves then causing a heart attack.

Well, it's extremely rare that people get heart attack because of excercise. It happens, but it's really rare. It's so rare that we can safely say: excercise is good for your health, and not having any excercise is bad, period. You can screw it up by not doing it right, however, overdoing it is almost impossible -- given you do it right. Running too much, for example, is almost impossible, if you get over the initial period of losing excess weight, and you drink and eat enough, etc.

It's not very common, but it also isn't nearly as rare as you're making it sound. I'll look for the study, but IIRC, if you're over 50, and you vigorously exercise more than 2 hours a week, your chance of a heart attack is actually greater than if you vigorously exercise only a couple minutes a week. And I think it's around 1 in 15k. Which although not common, is far from almost impossible.

Did you find a link to that study? 2 hours of vigorous exercise a week can still represent a vary sedentary lifestyle.

I would in no way be surprised that people who are over 50, overweight, and start a strenuous exercise program as if they where still in there 20's had a significant risk of heart attack. On the other had if there only looking at healthy people with long term exercise programs that's another issue entirely.


"Repeated extreme exercise or long-distance racing can cause a buildup of scar tissue on the heart, which can lead to the development of patchy myocardial fibrosis in up to 12% of marathon runners. The effects of “chronic exercise” can also include premature aging of the heart, stiffening of the heart muscles, and an increase in arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation."

"A 15-year observational study of 52,000 adults found that the highest degree of survival and health was found from running less than 20 miles per week, in runs of 30 to 45 minutes over three or four days, at about an 8:30 to 10:00 pace. The benefits decrease at amounts greater than that."

"Originally, it appeared the race-related damage was less severe in people who trained over 45 miles per week, but O’Keefe says that doesn’t prove to always be true."

As with most things, it appears that exercise is neither a panacea nor an unqualified good thing, but no doubt under-exercise is more prevalent than over-exercise...

That's really quite extreme over-exercise, though. If you don't train for a marathon, but rather go jogging a few times a week, you'll be fine.

I'm 54. I walk 8-10 miles every morning and lift weights 2 times a week for an hour. I use to have high blood pressure and the only (I tried them all) drug that worked for me was causing abnormal gum growth. So getting off the drug was my primary motivation. I'm 6'2" and now a lean 180 pounds.

That's awesome. I'm not saying that older people can't do that much exercise, just pointing out that it's worth starting slow. I entirely agree with you that exercise is good, and that's why I left the reply I did: I was arguing that exercise is almost always a good recommendation.

I have to tell that to my father (seriously). He's running many marathons a year, when people see us the first time sometimes they think we're brothers. He's 60.

Read what I wrote again, I am not considering the whole of people exercising, but those who don't exercise regularly and overexert themselves on some occasions

Your argument isn't quite as good as this one that I heard all the time as a kid:

"People who don't smoke die of lung cancer too."

Your argument probably falls more in line with the Jim Fixx excuse:


I could write a long explanation on why you're wrong but I think it's better for you to figure it out for yourself.

Living is after all, the number one cause of death with 100% fatality rate.

I feel that we're living long enough now. Until we are able to get our resource abuses under control and eliminate poverty the world over, then ~75+/-10 is a reasonable expectation. And when will these studies factor in quality of life.

Technically, life in humans is only known to have about a 93% fatality rate, although it's likely the remaining 7% will succumb in time.

Funny. But don't use the word technically, because that's factually incorrect. A bug spray need not kill every mosquito in existence to prove that it has 100% fatality rate on mosquitoes.

Your spray had better kill 100% of the mosquitos it's sprayed on, though. And 100% of humans have been "sprayed with" life.

It depends on your model - no number of mosquitos killed can deductively prove (à la mathematical proof) that a bug spray will kill all mosquitoes.

It can at best inductively prove it - the scientific approach, or alternately do what you called '100% rate' (the hidden words there being 'so far').

Avoid use of the word "prove" in a discussion of science and scientific theories. Science can't prove theories true, it can only prove theories false. Philosopher David Hume expressed this best: “No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.”

Yes use suggests not proves

Thanks for this. Mea culpa.

> Rate of death is still 100% for humans, regardless of what you do.

Nobody is saying that humans don't die.

The article is saying that something which has a very negative know effect on people's health: smoking, is just as bad as doing no exercise.

Wouldn't a more useful measure be deaths/100k per year? In general rate describes speed. What you describe is more like 'probability' of death.

Checking the definition of mortality rate, this seems closer to the general use. About the only difference is Case Fatality Rate which should perhaps be called Case Fatality Ratio instead.

Suppose there's a vaccine that has a 1 in a million chance to kill you.

Also suppose you have a 1% chance to catch and die from a disease without the vaccine.

You would take the vaccine every time.

Not necessarily.

Let's apply that to the Herpes Virus known to be risk factor for cervical cancer. There is a greater than 1% you catch the disease.

But, the risk you die from it is lower, maybe in 10,000? (Even the people who research it probably would have a hard time giving an estimate within an order of magnitude).

So would a parent give it to their child at 1 in a million? Assuming every child is given this vaccine 10M+, there would be around a dozen known fatalities. Both parents and FDA would probably have big problems with this.

(Disclaimer: this a hypothetical using a known condition but with made up facts. I take no position on "the vaccine debate" here.)

Cue those mythical 80 hour a week workers...

Well, smoking or not. You will die anyway.

Missing (2012) tag

I call BS.

My understanding is exercise is not that healthy from a physical stand point. (Mental health perhaps)

Continuous long term light strain is what I thought was beneficial. i.e. stand up desk, gardening etc

This PRed article seems to just be taking exercise as a given the extrapolating from there rather than looking at the issue itself.

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