Want to be toned? Avoid lengthy aerobics.

What does all this mean?  

For those of you who don't get my fit notes newsletter this is in regards to losing fat, gaining muscle and what type of exercise routine you should focus on to make that happen.  You can sign up for the free monthly email on the right of the page.

You need to have balance in your exercise program and extreme endurance training (while it may be addictive and make you feel good temporarily) is not good for your long term health.  

If you want to maintain or build muscle and reduce fat while potentially increasing your longevity you should strike a balance between intense weight training or interval cardio (if you are comfortable and can talk it is not intense enough) and slow leisurely walking (which actually reduces stress hormones).  Slow walking is very different than jogging or other moderate "I'm kinda getting a workout" cardio or light weight training exercise.  

For those of you endurance training addicts....in the long term you are doing more to harm your health than to help it.  Most of the people I know who do a lot of endurance training are constantly fighting injuries, getting sick etc....that should be a clue that rest is needed....easier said than done when you're an addict.

For those of you who are doubting any of this, here are the research citations so you can look this information up yourself.

Hormones (Jan. 2009) - showed that a relative excess of stress hormones compared to building hormones plays a key role in damage of the part of dna that is indicative of life and health

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Vol 35, 2003) - study on overtraining syndrome (excessive duration exercise) showed that in endurance athletes there is a correlation to shortened telomeres (part of dna indicating how long we may live)

European Journal of Applied Physiology (Jan. 2010) - comparing endurance runners to healthy sedentary people showed that the more mileage they ran the shorter their telomeres and that their telomeres were not significantly longer than the sedentary group

Sports Medicine in Science & Exercise (Jan. 2008) - study of weight lifters vs runners showed weight lifters had longer telomeres than the running group

You may also want to take a look at the May/June issue of OnFitness Magazine which discusses much of this in their Science of Aging article.