Welcome to part three of this series as we continue to discuss five main tips for aging gracefully and optimizing energy and body composition.
We covered diet big-time in the first two parts of this series, and in part three, we focus on the critical objective to move more and strategies to increase general everyday movement, which experts say is a more important objective than adhering to a devoted exercise regimen. You will hear about the dangers of what Katy Bowman has coined “lazy athlete mentality”, what happens to your body when you overexercise, and much more!
Stay tuned for part four!
Move more frequently. Even if you exercise regularly, the amount of sedentary time you have can negate your fitness. [01:14]
Your body does not like to become exhausted and depleted by excess energy expenditure in the form of an overly stressful exercise regimen. [03:49]
Kaiser Family Foundation’s study shows a correlation between kids’ fitness levels and academic performance. [06:52]
There is research showing that what you do first thing in the morning has the most powerful effects. [14:51]
Brain research suggests that we can only truly concentrate on a peak cognitive task for around 20 minutes at a time before we zone out. [16:50]
You don’t need a gym to stay fit. [19:00]
You need a comfortably-paced cardiovascular routine. Keep it under your maximum aerobic heart rate. [21:43]
Sit on the floor instead of a chair. Move your workspace into different positions. [24:44]
- Brad Kearns.com
- Brad’s Shopping page
- Podcast with Dr. Kelly Starrett
- Brad Kearns’s Morning Routine
- Brad’s First Simpler Morning Routine
- Atomic Habits
- Mark’s Daily Apple
- Don’t Just Sit There course
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I’m author and athlete, Brad Kearns. Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life. Visit brad kearns.com for great resources on healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle. And here we go with the show.
Greetings listeners, welcome to part three of the series on five tips to age gracefully and Optimize Energy and body Composition along the way. And we covered diet big time in the first two tips with number one being clean up your act, ditch the processed foods. Number two, emphasize nutrient dense, easy to digest foods. And now we shift gears and come over to the critical objective to move more frequently in all ways in general everyday life. So we’re gonna talk about some strategies to increase all forms of general everyday movement. Many experts contend now that this is a more important health and longevity objective, more important than adhering to a devoted exercise regimen. And that is because we have these compensation theory or the active couch potato syndrome. And these are ideas suggesting that even if you adhere to a devoted exercise regimen, but have a lot of sedentary influences overall in other areas of life, it can somewhat negate the benefits of going out there and exercising for an hour a day. We have to consider that there’s 168 hours total in a week. So if you are slogging around and not moving much for hours and hours on end day after day you will not be saved by slamming in the gym for an hour or getting out there on the roads
And running your 25 miles a week or whatever. And it sounds obvious and kind of silly to make this assertion, but unfortunately, there seems to be a prominence of what Katy Bowman calls the lazy athlete mentality where you are walking around carrying a hall pass to find ways to become lazier in general everyday life as opposed to more active and looking for ways to be energetic and peppy and moving more. And I can certainly relate to this concept because when I was a professional triathlete and training for hours and hours every day, I was incredibly lazy if I was not swimming, biking or running. And my favorite anecdote to describe this was how every day I would get in my car and drive six tenths of a mile to the mailbox to get the mail rather than, for example, take a nice evening stroll or ride my bike.
I, there was a big hill in between my house and the mailbox. But it’s kind of silly to think of someone who you know, had, had ridden 50 miles that day, or 85 miles that day, or run 12 miles. You know, I couldn’t, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other to go get the mail. Uh, but it was really the excess energy expenditure in the formal workouts that left me pretty exhausted for the other aspects of daily life. And that’s where this compensation theory kicks in. So if you over-exercise, if you embark on a training regimen that’s too strenuous, you are definitely going to find ways to economize and feel lazy over the course of the day. And in concert with that in many cases, you have a tendency to overeat because the body does not like to become exhausted and depleted by excess energy expenditure in the form of an overly stressful exercise regimen.
So you turn into a lazy overeating, quote unquote athlete who’s putting in the good workouts, but overall does not contribute to health and longevity outcomes, as well as just moving more and doing a lot of it at a comfortable pace so it’s not too strenuous. And that’s pretty much back to what the Primal Blueprint fitness laws are trying to convey, where we talk about move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things and sprint once in a while to honor our genetics, more so than a lot of the modern exercise patterns, which often feature a succession of overly stressful workouts. And so you get this chronic exercise pattern that leads to the compensations in general everyday life. So before we even talk about the high intensity training, which is tip number four, we’re gonna talk about finding ways to move more. And the centerpiece objective in this category would be walking, the quintessential form of human locomotion.
So many fantastic health benefits, uh, no health or burnout risks, because walking by definition is not that strenuous, of course, a brisk walk especially if you’re unfit, you can get your heart rate up there, possibly even above the aerobic cutoff. So we don’t want to go crazy with brisk walking if you’re outta shape, but what we’re talking about here is just locomotion as opposed to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. So it’s because we have so many comforts, conveniences and built-in optimizations these days, we have to manufacture opportunities to walk more. And sometimes this requires getting cute. Dr. Kelly Starrett, in my podcast many years ago, was talking about how they parked their car a mile away from the elementary school and hoof it in with their kids to get that daily walking objective. And boy, if you’re an elementary school parent, maybe this will hit home.
I remember seeing the conga line of cars, you know, getting into a traffic jam just before the bell rings at 8:00 AM you know, inching forward to get to the drop off zone where you could dump your kid on the curb and they could walk there 50 meters to class. And it’s like, why don’t you just park your car a quarter mile away, even if you have a kindergartner that’s, you know, taking short steps. It was so ridiculous to see traffic jams at pickup and, uh, and drop off at the school. Um, luckily we lived really close to the school, so we did walk the half a mile or third of a mile that it took every day. And when I formed my kids’ fitness charity called Running School .Get It? Running’s Cool. Running School. I organized this morning mile event at my kid’s school and at other schools that we served where before school started, the kids would drop their backpacks and run a circle around the school and get a little bit of exercise in to kind of counterbalance the sedentary patterns that they were already getting thrown in, in elementary school where they would sit in class for hours and hours.
And tragically sadly the momentum kind of died, especially after my kids left the school. And it turned out certain members of the faculty contended that they didn’t really have time, that they fell behind with this five minute allotment, first thing in the morning of the kids running around. And then there was also complaints that they would trudge in with their sneakers a little bit wet, carrying grass and, and dirtying up the room. And then finally, there was a couple occasions where, you know, kids would wipe out and skin the knee, so they’re off to the principal’s office and the momentum kind of built where, uh, they, they did away with the wonderful Brad Kearn’s Morning Mile. And not to, you know, criticize too much. It was just amusing to see some of the factors at play, such as the deep concern for kids falling and skinning their knees.
So we better cancel the morning exercise event. And then the idea of falling behind on academics due to a small, sliver of time devoted to the running because the principal, uh, set the bells back five minutes in order to have everyone on board to, um, first thing in the morning to run around the school. But the data is so strong. The Kaiser Family Foundation did a comprehensive study of, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands of school kids in California and showed this strong correlation between fitness levels as measured by the statewide fitness gram testing that they do every year. Maybe you’re familiar with the old presidential fitness testing that, uh, American kids went through for decades and decades. And so a kid’s fitness score on the fitness gram testing and a kid’s academic performance was strongly correlated. And if that’s not enough argument in favor of emphasizing fitness and activity during a child’s school day and in a child’s life, I don’t know what else could be, but boy, it was interesting experience to see.
And we’re still fighting this tremendous battle as we set the young people on a path to more and more sedentary living, more and more convenient. So whatever age you are listening to the show, you have to find ways to integrate more walking into daily life. I mentioned the example of a dog so often because I feel like if you can transcend your own flimsy motivation, willpower, sense of busyness, that you can’t squeeze in these walking opportunities, the least you can do is look bigger than yourself and honor your commitment to owning an animal and get that dog out of the house twice a day for a nature experience and for a physical activity experience. So if nothing else, that is your obligation, that’s your commitment to the animal, whether or not you feel like it. And I’m always amused when I see my dog looking out the window in inclement weather going, when are we gonna start, uh, our, our expected walk, even if it’s snowing, raining, windy, whatever it is, um, not hot, cuz you don’t want to get your dog out there, when the, when the weather’s too hot, especially when the pavement’s too hot.
But you know what I’m talking about. Like, they don’t, they don’t complain. They’re not making excuses. They always have time in their day. So please make time in your day. There’s also great research that a leisurely walk at a slow pace after a meal can mute the insulin response by a significant amount. So those of you playing with your continuous glucose monitors that wonderful tool for instant behavior modification, you can see that if you get up from the dinner table and take a stroll around the block, you’re going to process the calories much more efficiently if you’re concerned with glucose spikes and regulating healthy blood sugar. Uh, now as we go down the list of other ways to increase all forms of general everyday movement, remember walking is just one. I’m going to highlight my morning exercise routine, which has just become the most wonderful centerpiece to my overall living experience.
It’s truly been life-changing. As I’ve told you many times, I’m now on a streak that has lasted close to six years where I have not missed a single day of my template morning exercise routine. So you could call that a habit. Not every day do I feel like doing it. Sometimes I feel a little bit pressed for time, but I prioritize this to the extent that it’s transcended the flimsy attributes of motivation and willpower. So I don’t think about whether I’m motivated or not because it’s not something that’s in the decision making category. I just hit the deck and I commence, and I always feel better after than before when I started. And that even includes days when I’m really beat up and recovering from strenuous exercise prior or jet-lagged or whatever it is. So you want to devise a routine that’s not overly strenuous or overly daunting, that’s doable, and something that seems sustainable.
So if you only have five minutes right now to commit to a morning exercise routine, that is a fantastic way to start. Number one bestselling book in the world right now. Atomic Habits by James Clear contends that when you’re setting goals and trying to engage in habit modification, you put the bar really, really low so that you can totally achieve the desired life-changing habit and then celebrate these small successes. And then of course, you can naturally and gracefully build upon them. And that’s exactly what I did with my morning exercise routine. It started out very modest. It was a 12-minute session with my legs swinging around in the air and doing a little bit of back and forth of this and that. It wasn’t very strenuous. And over time I auditioned and added new exercises very carefully because you see, I do the exact same template of exercises every morning.
So I start with 40 hamstring kick outs to the right, 40 to the left, 20 frog legs forward, 20 frog legs backward, 20 scissors. You get the point where it’s, I’m going through the sequence every day with the same thing. That means I don’t have to use any creative energy to decide what exercise am I gonna do this morning. I might do just that with my actual workouts where I’m strategizing, I’m changing, I’m going, you know, through the ups and downs of stress and rest. And some days I take it easy and some days I do a proper session at the running track or whatever it might be. But the morning exercise routine is a template, the same thing every single day. Then if I change the template once in a while, like add a new exercise, that becomes the new template, and then I carry that forward and I do tweak and modify over time.
And over time in the last six years, the routine has now grown to be a quite ambitious, minimum 40 minutes. Usually I add on something to the end where I’m just dedicating the first hour of my day every single day to exercise. And that works really well for me. There’s a lot of research supporting the idea that something that you do first thing in the morning has the most powerful effects for habit modification and for improving focus discipline and those other peak performance attributes carrying forward into the rest of your day. So here’s a huge vote for doing something first thing in the morning. And, of course, it can be many, uh, life benefiting things. It could be a meditation session, it could be, uh, getting out your gratitude journal and making a few notes there. Uh, but I’m strongly in favor of doing something physical because I believe it also helps you energize naturally in the morning when a lot of us could definitely use that.
This includes the component of getting outdoors and exposing yourself to direct light. Not has to be sunny outside, but it’s direct sunlight. It could be through the clouds, it could be a cloudy, rainy day even, but still that will have a profound effect on setting your circadian rhythm optimally. So what I do is I get up, I go outdoors, whatever the weather is, if it’s snowing and freezing cold, I’ll be doing my exercise through an open sliding door in the kitchen so I can still get direct light exposure. Do the best you can. Of course, if it’s super, super cold, uh, you’re not gonna be doing it outside, but you can take a minute or two to expose yourself to sunlight and then do your workout routine in an appropriate venue. And boy. And there’s nothing that sets the tone for an active day, like starting your day with activity and kind of programming your brain to say, I’m gonna be alert, I’m gonna be energized, I’m gonna be on the move.
So that’s the morning exercise routine pairing with finding ways to walk more any, anytime, any place. And especially when it comes to, uh, breaking up prolonged periods of stillness and cognitive function in front of the screen. The brain research suggests that we can only truly concentrate on a peak cognitive task for around 20 minutes at a time before we zone out a little bit and require a little bit of cognitive refreshment, turning away from the intense task and refreshing those brain neurons, refreshing the sodium potassium pumps in the brain by just cooling out a little bit. Rather than grinding away for two and a half hours straight on some important project. You’re just not gonna perform as well as if you were to take a minute here, a minute there, maybe five minutes at the top of the hour every hour throughout the day to get away from your desk and move your body physically through space.
Ideally, again, getting outdoors, exposing yourself to fresh air and direct sunlight. But we absolutely desperately need these breaks from stillness and from cognitive focus. And the best way to do that would be to get up and walk. But you can also throw in some brief explosive, difficult, challenging, uh, efforts in the form of micro workouts. The best example, if you’re right there in your cubicle, you don’t have time, you don’t have a lot of, um, logistics around, but you can certainly drop for a set of 20 deep squats right there in your workspace as a break from peak cognitive task and stillness. And even if you’re in good shape doing 20 squats starts to get pretty strenuous when you get to 17, 18, 19, you’re burning a little bit, you’re feeling it. So that is a great way to not only boost your fitness level, especially the cumulative effects over time, but you know, get the blood flowing, get the brain refreshed and keep your energy and your motivation and your focus high throughout a prolonged stint at the workplace.
So I think these micro workouts represent one of the greatest breakthroughs in the fitness industry in decades because it’s demystifying and reducing the complexity of what it means to lead a fit lifestyle. And so many of us, you heard this a lot during quarantine where people said, yeah, I got outta shape and I gained weight because, uh, my gym closed. And I’m like, it’s like, what are you talking about? You know, you don’t need a gym to stay in shape. And fortunately a lot of people embrace the idea of home fitness experience. Uh, the sales of the, uh, the home base fitness products skyrocketed during quarantine. And people realized that anything can represent a fitness venue. And so for a very minimal investment, like, I think I even wrote a blog post about this, where, um, you have your $27 for a pull-up bar.
Uh, I like the stretch tubing that you hang off, the pull-up bar, stretch cords, they’re called, they’re like 50 bucks. Um, you can start to accumulate the mini bands or, you know, 12 bucks. You can start to accumulate some contraptions that can be right there in your airspace and in your visual field. Also important every day that you can grab and perform a very significant and impressive micro workout. So I can pull the stretch cords doing a variety of upper body sequences and make it a very strenuous experience that lasts for five minutes and basically gives me a total upper body workout. Same with the mini bands, a few trips up and down the hall doing the monster walks or doing the ballet dancer, uh, or the shuffle, the different moves that you can do. And I demonstrate a lot of these in my morning routine online course.
Boy, that’ll light you up and get those quads, get those glutes firing like nothing else. And so again, these are the devotion of like a minute or two of your precious time throughout the day to sprinkle in micro workouts. And over time, they have a fantastic cumulative effect on your fitness level. They will elevate the fitness level from which you launch all of your formal workouts and also have those immediate benefits to getting the blood flowing, keeping your energy high, keeping your glucose tolerance good, so you’re not kind of zoning out and going and craving a snack. That’s a sign that you’ve been sitting too long and that your metabolism is even being compromised because you’ve been sitting there for an hour or two hours straight without moving. So we have the finding ways to walk. We have the morning exercise routine, a devoted template exercise routine that you commit to every single day.
We have the micro workouts, and then of course we have the formal exercise sessions that will fall into this category of general everyday movement. And that is the comfortably paced cardiovascular. So if you love doing the exercise bike and watching TV at the gym or climbing on the stairs, or actual jogging on the trails or in the parks on the roads, this can contribute to your daily movement objective. Wonderfully, of course. But if you are devoted to regular pedaling through the neighborhood or jogging, just be careful not to overdo it. And the best guideline there is to honor that aerobic maximum heart rate cutoff of 180 minus your age in beats per minute. So if I’m 57, 180 minus 57 is 123, that’s gonna be my magic number where I don’t want to exceed that in order to execute a properly paced aerobic workout.
A non-strenuous, predominantly fat-burning exercise session. And I think unfortunately, a lot of devoted exercisers are huffing and puffing on the treadmills of the world and the roads and trails, and they are slightly too significantly exceeding that aerobic maximum heart rate. So it’s no longer a predominantly fat-burning, comfortably-paced exercise session. It’s starting to get into that medium to difficult category that can easily lead to burnout, if that is your template routine. Same thing for the group exercise class. So everyone goes into the room, they get on the stationary bike, the music cranks up, the instructor is excited, getting you going. Maybe it’s one of those home-based units where you’re watching the instructor on video monitor and you’re pushing yourself a little bit too hard in order for it to be comfortable, sustainable and emphasizing fat-burning. So that’s the, the warning if you are out there cranking away, doing some good cardiovascular exercise sessions is in many cases, you can benefit and feel better from slowing down a bit.
Guess what, um, the, um, the foam rolling and self myofascial release also counts toward your movement objectives because you are moving your muscles and tissues through range of motion. You’re probably, uh, elevating your, your breathing and you’re exerting yourself a little bit if you’re doing a proper foam rolling session. So even if you’re sitting around relaxing, watching streaming entertainment, you can get down on the ground and go through some nice enjoyable foam rolling, get those muscles going, and that counts too. And speaking of sitting on the ground, we have this whole concept of ancestral resting positions or archetypal resting positions. Talked about it a lot on Mark’s Daily Apple. It’s a fundamental component of the Primal Fitness Coach certification.
But there’s great research showing that interacting with the ground with your skeleton and supporting your weight, uh, on something other than a chair or a sofa, has some nice benefits for your musculoskeletal system. It’s called ground reaction force. And so you are engaging the lymphatic system, you’re building your musculature because, sitting down on your butt and typing on your laptop is significantly more difficult than deloading your skeleton into a chair. So it takes a little bit of acclimation to get used to it. But I have now, transitioned my workday into more of a three-tiered, uh, situation here where I put a lot of time in at the standup environment, then I have a proper chair where I can, uh, sit and relax. And then finally I have the, uh, the low workspace where I’m sitting on the ground or on a soft pad and, and little stool, uh, supports my laptop. So I have a low position, I have a traditional sitting position and I have a high position. And I cycle through those throughout the day.
And I’m spending more, I find myself spending more and more time on the ground with one leg stretched out, one knee bent, switching the other way, uh, kind of turning my legs and my butt sideways. So I’m a little bit onto the right side, a little bit onto the left side. And all these things have a wonderful, adaptive effect for your musculoskeletal system. Unlike sitting in a chair, which you’ve probably read the distinction where you are compressing your hip flexors and your hamstrings, you’re putting your glutes into a prolonged stretch that causes them to weaken. And so you develop all these types of imbalances from compressing into a chair, in contrast to, of course, standing up your, you’re supporting your body weight. And so you’re getting a lot of fitness and health effects there, as well as sitting down on the ground.
And of course, I find it much easier and it makes sense that it’s easier to rotate through numerous positions rather than try to be a standup desk superstar and put in hours and hours, uh, standing in the same position. Katy Bowman says in her great work over at Nutritious Movement is the name of her website and her programming. Um, she says, you’re just similar to, uh, sitting all day, except you’re gonna be more sore if you’re at your standup desk all day. So really the key is workplace variation. And if you look under the online courses I offer at bradkearns.com, one of them is called Don’t just Sit There. And it’s a compilation of great education from Katy Bowman. We have videos, we have audio, we have printed material, and it’ll help you create this dynamic workplace experience where you’re moving around and changing positions.
So there I think we have everything we need to start moving more throughout our everyday life, starting with manufacturing opportunities to walk. Next, we have the wonderful start to the day of a morning exercise routine. And again, you don’t have to go crazy out of the gate, but if you can do your first act upon awakening to move in some way, it might be a simple sequence of yoga sun salute stretches. It might be shuffling over to put on your slippers, leash up the dog and walk around the block. Or it might become something more devoted and life-changing, such as my morning exercise routine. But start your day with exercise, get you off on a great foot and great momentum to move more throughout the day. We talked about the wonderful benefits of micro workouts where you accumulate fitness benefits without the risks and the downside of the overtraining patterns that are so common among devoted fitness enthusiasts out on the road and in the gym.
So just busting out a set of squats here and there, and especially as I mentioned briefly, putting opportunities right in your visual field so that kettle bell becomes a doorstop and the mini bands are hanging around the doorknob and you can put up rules, guidelines, sticky note reminders, commitments such as, Hey, you’re gonna do 40 squats before you leave the office every single day. Or you’re gonna walk up three flights of stairs to the 10th floor and walk back down every single day. Things like that, that have some significance and accountability for you so that they just become part of habit. And if they’re easy and doable, not too strenuous, not too time consuming, that’s when they can get integrated into a true habit. So we talked about the micro workouts. Of course the formal cardiovascular exercise sessions conducted at the appropriate heart rate in the aerobic zone of 180 minus your age and in beats per minute.
We don’t want to exceed that. It’s a very, very comfortable pace, by the way. So it might be a little frustrating if you’re used to jumping on your exercise bike and getting that heart rate up and listening to the music and getting a nice sweat going. So that’s sort of a different category of workout than this objective to move at a comfortable pace and build that aerobic system without that higher intensity. And the other fitness stimulations that occur when you’re, when you’re pushing yourself a little bit. So we have the formal workouts. And then finally, some complimentary movements such as foam rolling. And I also should mention formal practices such as going and taking a yoga class or Pilates class or watching a video. And again, if it’s seeming to be difficult for you to, um, adhere to a routine that you dream of tone things down a little bit.
And you’re allowed to take a five minute yoga class on the days that you don’t drive across town and get into the wonderful one-hour session with the great instructor. But just sprinkle in more opportunities to move more throughout life. And then you were dialed in with tip number three of the five tips to age gracefully and Optimize Energy and Body Composition. Thanks for listening. Coming up is the section about high intensity training, and finally the section about stress management. And that will cover a bunch of different topics starting with sleep. And all in all, we’re gonna have five wonderful shows that you can refer to for years to come to age gracefully. Thank you for listening.
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