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Incidental Training could save Your Life!

Incidental Training: Everything Can Be Training

By  on March 11, 2019

I saw an interesting documentary on the BBC a while ago called ‘The Truth About Slim People’, that followed the lives of slim people to see what they did differently from their larger counterparts. These people didn’t eat particularly carefully, or stick to any exercise regime, and yet they never seemed to gain weight.

Meanwhile, some people who count every calorie still don’t seem able to shed the pounds.

While I discussed some possible reasons for this in a previous video, the idea that this program honed in on was that the slim people were simply more active throughout the day. They would walk more, they would bob their leg, and they would take the stairs instead of the elevator.

This concurs with an interesting theory that our body will automatically seek a state of homeostasis and therefore prevent us from losing weight. Ever noticed how your weight doesn’t fluctuate on a week-to-week basis much? That’s probably because your body ramps up and down activity in order to adapt to the amount of calories you consumed that day.

Eat a little more, and you might find that you think harder (that’s right: thinking burns calories), you move a little faster (perhaps there is a spring in your step as you bound up the stairs), you shiver more, and your metabolism ramps up.

Conversely though, on days where you didn’t quite get as much to eat, you might find yourself crashing out early on the couch, lowering your resting metabolic rate (study), and tossing and turning less when you sleep. Your body has reached a state of healthy homeostasis and it requires a pretty big jolt to break this comfortable equilibrium.

Use a fitness tracker and you might be forgiven for thinking that the workout you just did helped you to burn a ton of calories. 180 in an hour is roughly an average for weightlifting for instance. The problem is that we often forget to deduct the calories we would have burned that same hour by just doing nothing. That’s probably around 50. Meanwhile that really you only burned an additional 130 calories – less impressive. That’s like a four finger KitKat.

The point of all this is that when it comes to health and particularly weight loss, the amount of movement you do throughout the day is probably more important than the amount of effort you put in down the gym for an hour.

More Reasons to Move Regularly

And this makes sense too when you consider our evolutionary background. In the wild, we would not have spent 95% of our time inactive, and then attempted to blow all of our energy in a single hour of intense weight lifting! Is it any wonder that this often leads to injury?

Sitting all day is actually immensely destructive for our health and has been linked with all kinds of health problems. According to widely reported research conducted a couple years back, sitting increases your chances of suffering from a wide range of diseases. In the study, Brazilian researchers looked at data from 54 countries and found that across the board, sitting for more than three hours was linked to 3.8% of deaths from all causes. The conclusion? That restricting sitting to less than three hours a day could increase your lifespan by an average of 0.2 years!

Another piece of research looked at information from across 47 previous studies and found that sitting raised the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and ‘early death’ (cardiovascular disease and cancer will do that…). What’s more, this held true even for those that exercise regularly. In other words, you can’t ‘undo’ a lifetime of sitting by hitting the gym a few times a week. Physical activity helps but only to a small degree (those that are physically active are 30% less likely to die but they don’t get let off the hook!).

Another study conducted by a team from the University of Queensland in Australia had even more morbid findings. They found that on average, each hour of sitting in front of the television would reduce the life expectancy of adults by 22 minutes!

In another study, a team at the University of Queensland in Australia analyzed data on the television- viewing habits of 8,800 Australians. They calculated that each hour of television correlated with 22 minutes off the average life expectancy of an adult older than 25.

Remember that correlation does not mean causality! And I certainly wouldn’t put too much stock in these findings… but still, it’s definitely an interesting point to consider.

There are more reasons to move regularly too. Doing so, for instance, can help to combat anxiety (study), boost executive function (study), and reduce blood pressure and other markers of poor health.

The Solution: Incidental Exercise

So what is the solution?

One answer is ‘incidental exercise’. This refers to the exercise that you do throughout the day and typically encompasses things like ‘taking the stairs instead of the elevator’ or carrying shopping to your car.

If you’re struggling to lose weight, then take a look at your daily routine and ask yourself how much activity is involved. If you drive to work, sit at a desk, then come home and sit on the sofa… then you have room for improvement!

Incidental exercise is really about making healthy choices throughout the day: doing things like getting off the bus a stop early.

You are simply making the conscious decision to move more, thereby overriding your body’s attempt to maintain homeostasis. If you set yourself reminders to move or use tricks like standing desks, then you can reduce the amount of time you spend sat down.

Take a look at your routine and find places where you could easily insert a little more activity without making yourself overly tired or sweaty.

You can even set yourself easy little goals – such as doing ten press-ups every hour, on the hour. You’ll be surprised at how much lighter, more energetic, and less stressed you feel.

The Next Level: Incidental Training

But we can take this a step further with what I like to call ‘incidental training’. I assumed this was already a thing, but looking around I couldn’t find any reference to it.

The idea behind incidental training is simple: you’re going to integrate actual training into your routine – so that you aren’t just doing a single workout a day, but are also distributing shorter ‘micro workouts’ throughout your day.

Examples might include performing single legged calf raises off a curb while waiting for a bus, or performing an isometric curl against some railings. I use calf raises while bouncing my baby to sleep, and I play a game with here where I hold her in the air and perform sit-ups. You might keep a grip trainer by your kettle and use that whenever you’re waiting for the water to boil. Or you might perform some stretches in the shower. You can curl shopping bags and suitcases, or you can do a pistol squat down to the ground the next time you need to pick something up that you’ve dropped.

Another old trick is to leave a piece of equipment somewhere and then use that every time you go past. A lot of people do this with a pull-up bar – performing chin ups or pull ups every time they walk through their doorframe.

Or how about doing a very short 5 minute run around the block before lunch?

Does this work? What about overtraining you ask?

The answers to both these points depend on the type of training and what your goals are.

Studies show that micro workouts involving cardio are sufficient for increasing cardio fitness to some degree and that they actually help to improve adherence. Beyond a basic level of fitness though, you’re likely looking at HIIT sessions, which are still very intense and will leave you sweaty and panting for a good while.

It is possible to encourage growth in your muscles in a short space of time by using intensity techniques like drop sets to flush them with metabolites and cause muscle damage. Target a single muscle group, do a couple of drop sets, and in 10-15 minutes you can get a decent burn going that will equate to growth the next day. But doing this repeatedly throughout the day will take time, leave you sweaty, and potentially prevent recovery.

Lifting a very heavy weight on the other hand for just a couple of repetitions is even more likely to be effective in increasing your mind-muscle connection, your correct movement patterns, etc. Again though, there is some risk of burning out your CNS here, and of introducing injury. And it’s hardly convenient!

So we need to be strategic.

High rep and high weight work can be useful throughout the day as a way to ‘top up’ your training, to make up for shorter or missed workouts, or to feed the muscles with enhanced blood flow, to encourage recovery and growth. You can trigger significant changes in a short space of time, as long as you have been training long enough to know what triggers your body to change.

This is one way I’ve been coping with the lower energy levels and reduced free time that comes from being a parent.

Likewise, by using lighter weights and body weight, you might be able to benefit from what is known as ‘greasing the groove’ – as described by Pavel Tsatsouline. This means that you’re repeating a movement over and over again, so as to improve your ability to perform that movement correctly. This applies in golf where overtime your swing becomes more and more perfect.

But seeing as ‘strength is a skill’, you can see the precise same benefit by performing very light deadlifts if you keep a barbell in your garden. Pull-ups are also a great example, as are things like attempting handstands or planche. Keep some parallettes by your TV and have a go every now and then throughout the evening. You’ll be reinforcing neural connections through a process called myelination, thereby improving the efficiency of the movement, and thereby the strength.

Practising pistol squats

Better yet: why not try using overcoming isometrics to increase neural drive (static contractions where you push or pull against something without moving), or the concentric-only exercises I talked about in my work capacity video. In short: removing the eccentric portion of the movement that often incurs the most muscle damage and inflammation means that training is less likely to impede your subsequent workouts.

That’s why the aforementioned example of squeezing a grip trainer while the kettle boils is perfect.

Look for ways to insert incidental training into your routine to complement your current program, and you could see significant strength, size, and endurance gains.

Training Other Things

The other thing to remember is that weightlifting is not the only kind of training. I talked about a training program for the mind the other day, and discussed ideas such as performing mental arithmetic to boost working memory. You can easily do this while doing other mundane tasks.

Or how about engaging in a little ‘mindful ironing’ – meaning you focus 100% on the ironing to turn it into a form of meditation!

Flexibility is something that can be practiced anywhere, any time. Again, stretching in the shower is ideal, as is stretching before bed to improve sleep.

Or what about throwing a few punches next time you’re watching TV?

Why walk somewhere when you can jog? Or jog backwards and develop your legs and coordination in a whole new way? Who cares what people think.

Why stand when you can stand on one leg and improve your balance?

Why write when you can write left-handed?

Why go through the gate when you can jump over it?

EVERYTHING can be training.

Closing Thoughts

Whether your aim is to get the blood pumping and improve your health with a little more light activity throughout the day, to squeeze training in around an intensely busy schedule, or to improve a specific skill; incidental training is an excellent option. For me, this was the only way to add flexibility training into a hugely packed regime! Let me know in the comments down below how you turn everyday activities into convenient workouts.

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About the article writer Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I’m an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self-improvement, technology, and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I’ll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business, and technology.

Be Boundrylessly Smart…At work OR play ~

Enjoying Playing AND Working ... Sure you Can !!

Enjoying Playing AND Working ... Sure you Can !!

Hi Everyone,

Here’s some simple ideas to help you use the time you’ve got (know we all wish we had more…
those 24 hours sometimes just seem not enough for us busy folks!)

Please read, enjoy, and remember to share your own ideas too !!

Here you go:

Sometimes take a new route to work.

You probably won’t pull into the parking lot any sooner, but at least you’ll show up smarter. When British researchers used MRIs to measure the brain sizes of London taxi drivers, they found that cabbies with the most experience had the largest posterior hippocampi—the area associated with memory. Because taxi drivers have to memorize the detailed layout of a geographically complex city and need to recall that information every day, they literally “build bigger brains,” says Dr. Victoroff.

Don’t have a hack license? Any activity in which you push the intellectual envelope in a similar way—exploring new routes to work, hiking unfamiliar trails on the weekends, even taking on more new projects at work—will, over time, act like Miracle-Gro for your mind.

Enjoy that Breakfast Protein…

Swiss researchers found that of three different breakfasts—high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and a balance of both—the high-protein meal helped men score highest on a computer memory test (similar to the electronic game Simon). “Short-term memory can be better after a protein-rich meal because the food increases your levels of the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine,” says Karina Fischer, Ph.D., the lead study author.

Make some Noise… The White kind.

Studies show that listening to white noise—such as a constant whooshing sound—while you work may actually improve your concentration. “A steady, smooth sound of a constant intensity and regularity reduces the impact of unpredictable noises by making it harder for the brain to process them,” says Mary Anne Baker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Indiana University Southeast.

In non-geekspeak: Since white noise is produced at a constant low level, it can screen out random, distracting sounds without being a distraction itself. The result: Your mind is free to home in on the task at hand.

But don’t spring for a white-noise generator; turn your computer into one with free software from nch.com.au/tonegen.

Take in some E… And some vitamin C, too.

In a study of 3,385 older men published in the journal Neurology, those who took vitamin E and C supplements daily performed 20 percent better on tests of concentration, memory, and reasoning than those who didn’t pop any.

Researchers believe that the antioxidants in the vitamins protect neurons from oxidative damage that causes a dumbing down. “You could assume that if it works in older men, it would be even more beneficial if you started sooner,” says Helen Petrovich, M.D., one of the study authors.

Since most multivitamins are light on E, take a separate 400-milligram supplement twice a day, recommends Guy McKhann, M.D., a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University. And stick with a brand that contains tocotrienols, a type of vitamin E that studies suggest is better at delivering oxygen from your heart to your brain.

Enjoy some White wine.

Everyone else in the office drinks to forget life, but you’re going to have a happy hour to remember. Three large European studies recently revealed that people who down one or two alcoholic drinks a day retain their memories better than either teetotalers or heavy drinkers. “Alcohol can lower your cholesterol, so you’ll have better blood flow and more glucose and oxygen reaching your brain,” says Dr. Victoroff.

But why sip Chablis? “Red wine gives many people headaches, hard liquor sometimes contains toxins, and beer can sabotage your waistline,” he says. “But a glass of white wine may be a great way to keep your brain cells running strong.”

Go ahead and … Grab your joystick.

Not THAT joystick, but the one attached to your kid’s Xbox. British researchers found that the longer people play video games, the higher their levels of concentration, sometimes equaling a trained athlete’s ability to focus. “Playing video games requires a high level of concentration to be successful, and that seems to transfer to the real world,” says Jo Bryce, Ph.D., the study coauthor.

The researchers didn’t look at which games were more effective, but if you want to blast and zap on your lunch break, go to c-eon.com and download Arcade Park to your handheld. For $15, you get pocket versions of six classic low-tech games: Arkanoid, Asteroids, Black Shark, Digger, Lode Runner, and Pac Man.

Remember to put some Play into your work folks !!! 😉