Here’s All the Exercise Advice That Requires No Exercise

Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

After all, working out can kill you

As a native son of L.A., I have a complicated relationship with exercise. Growing up in a city notorious for its driving culture, I, like most of my fellow purebreds, prefer to drive as little as one block rather than to walk the same distance. On the other hand, everyone here looks like they’ve just left the gym — a sort of citywide form of peer pressure to be in the best possible shape at all times.

So when I come across a study or article that tells me do less with my body, I can’t help but grin like a comic-book villain. And believe it or not, there are a lot of these kinds of studies out there. More than you would ever think, actually. Here are my six favorites:

1. Last week, TheNew York Times published an article that explained “Why You Shouldn’t Walk on Escalators.” Though walking on an escalator hardly counts as exercise, the author’s insistence on not even doing that made laziness endorphins flood my body. In an experiment done in 2015 at New York City’s Penn Station during the morning rush, researchers found that standing on both sides of an escalator reduced congestion by about 30 percent. Better yet, the “time in system” — or how long it took to stand in line to reach an escalator and then ride it — dropped sharply when everyone stood (not walked), according to a blog post by the researchers.

2. In 2015, Forbes published a piece that detailed the injury risks associated with high-intensity weights and nonstop pace workouts such as CrossFit. This makes sense considering that CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman, was quoted in a 2005 New York Times story as admitting “it can kill you.” At Vox, Julia Belluz cited several studies that “have revealed alarming trauma rates” among CrossFit athletes. “Of the 132 people who responded to the survey, 97 (or nearly three-quarters) reported getting hurt during CrossFit training, and most injuries involved the shoulders and spine. These respondents reported a total of 186 injuries; nine led to surgeries.” The obvious answer to these problems: Don’t do CrossFit.

3. Also in 2015, the Times covered a study that suggested frequent exercise causes “profound changes in cardiac physiology and structure.” These changes can mimic heart damage, with cardiac cells often becoming “leaky” after strenuous workouts or events, releasing proteins into the bloodstream that, in other circumstances, could indicate a heart attack. Again, my takeaway: No exercise = no heart attack.

4. In 2011, British researchers set out to study the heart health of a group of fit older athletes. The results, published a few weeks ago in The Journal of Applied Physiology, were rather disquieting. None of the younger athletes (or better still, the older nonathletes) had fibrosis in their hearts. But half of the older lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring. The affected men were, in each case, those who’d trained the longest and hardest. In other words: Spending years exercising strenuously or completing more marathons was associated with a greater likelihood of heart damage…



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