Vail Daily column: A fitness solution for the time constrained |

Vail Daily column: A fitness solution for the time constrained

I ran into an old friend in passing this week and asked how he was doing. The response was typical. “Super busy. Where has the summer gone?” Another summer season wrapped up, and we certainly aren’t closer to attaining the life balance that doesn’t seem to exist in this rat race culture of America.

I had three casual fitness conversations this week that culminated in the conclusion that “there just isn’t enough time in our busy lives to exercise.” Crossfit and other popular (high intensity) exercise programs notwithstanding, the fitness industry hasn’t put a dent in the misconception that in order to obtain any reasonable fitness results, “you need an hour per day most days of the week.”


The current guidelines from our policy makers follows “for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.

For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity, 150 minutes a week of vigorous, intense aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.”


Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount? Really? In a study by Martin J. Gibala at the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the most remarkable findings was the dramatic improvement in exercise performance during tasks that rely mainly on aerobic energy metabolism, despite the very low training volume (time commitment).

In the initial study, subjects doubled the length of time that exercise could be maintained at a fixed workload from approximately 26 to 51 minutes during cycling at 80 percent of pre-training maximum effort after only six sessions.

These subjects performed intense cycling for 30 seconds, four to six times, separated by four minutes of recovery (two to three total minutes of intense exercise) a few days per week. The total training time per session, including lower effort recovery periods were 18 and 27 minutes respectively; it is questionable to make claims that people need to perform at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intensive exercise per week for substantial health benefits.

Dr. James O’Keefe, the director of Preventative Cardiology Fellowship Program and the preventative cardiology at the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, states that “long distance aerobic training causes structural cardiovascular changes and elevations of cardiac biomarkers that appear to return to normal in the short term, but when taken on as a regular activity can result in patchy hardening of the heart, irregular heartbeats, coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction and large-artery wall stiffening.” He claims that after an hour of aerobic training, the point of diminishing returns is real and that there seems to be evidence that this type of commitment to exercise may be detrimental.

I will be the first to maintain that conflicting scientific evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that one argument is absolute. This stuff isn’t black and white, and I’m not fully ready to make a firm stand that more isn’t good. But I am firmly on the record stating that less is likely just as effective.


Here’s my point for the typical non-exerciser who is strapped for time. The average, struggling middle class American likely feels overwhelmed with the ideology of setting aside five hours per week for physical activity to obtain optimal results. This is even more unrealistic for spouses raising children who have a hard enough time finding two hours in the week to merely have an adult conversation. The unfit public is trapped; they reason with themselves, “Gee, I don’t have five hours per week to exercise. I might as well just stay where I’m at.” Americans are champs! If we can’t do something right with 100 percent commitment, we’re not going to do it at all. I am all about standards, commitment to guidelines and ideals. But something is so much better than nothing. It doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach here.

If you get anything out this column, it is this — consistency and compliance with some form of exercise for five minutes a day, two days per week is better than nothing. In fact, if the intensity is high enough, it appears this approach may be ideal! Get moving today and stop believing the nonsense.

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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