Innovative Exercise: A Review

The following was written for a class I’m taking this summer on innovation. The assignment was to write a blog some on something innovative. I also had a couple of other writing assignments that you can find here, but since they don’t relate to health or fitness, I’m not going to post them here (though I did write a pretty awesome book review, if I do say so myself). And we begin…

When it comes to exercise, it’s all about the “next big thing.” This machine will give you abs of steel! This DVD program will get your body beach-ready in 4 weeks with just 20 minutes a day! This chemical chamber will turn you into a patriotic super-buff (spandex not included)!

Nobody runs anymore. Crunches are a thing of the past. These traditional workouts are considered obsolete and ineffective. But why? Is there something really wrong with how people have been working out?

First, let’s look at running. It’s a simple idea; put one foot in front of the other very quickly. It’s also dynamic. Sprinting gives different results than distance running. City running is different than running through the country (country running is far superior in every way).

So what’s the beef with running? If you’ve ever seen the infomercial for the TreadClimber, the two biggest points they make is that running is hard on your joints and takes too long to produce results. 

In fact, running is actually good for your joints. It strengthens the muscles around your joints and prevents arthritis. Don’t believe me? Well I guess that’s your prerogative, but I have science on my side.

What about that second point? It takes too long. What? How long is too long? Running for 1 hour at an average rate of 5 miles per hour burns around 500 calories. Do that every day for a week and that’s over 3000 calories. If you ran this every day, you’d be essentially burning over a day’s worth of calories every week. Try taking one day a week and just not eat. See what happens.

The Tread Climber boasts being able to give you “results” faster (i.e. lose weight faster), but that may actually be a bad thing. Losing too much weight too quickly can cause all sorts of issues for your body. Bottom line: before you pay $2000 for a TreadClimber, stop and think for a minute about what you’re really buying (And think about how running outside is free!).

Now what about crunches? A very basic workout, right? You lay on the ground and contract your abdominal muscles until your shoulders lift off of the ground. However, crunches are one of the exercises that take the most heat in this age of innovative exercise. Ab Glider, the Hip-hop Abs system, and Leslie’s Bender Ball are all methods of getting “slim,” “sexy,” or “rockin’ [sic]” abs without doing crunches. The infomercials for these methods POKE FUN AT how ineffective crunches are for getting desirable abs.

Again, I refute their claims. Crunches are a proven method of strength training. If you’re doing “a gazillion crunches and not seeing results,” don’t blame the crunches (even though Leslie does). Blame a lack of cardio. As a strength training exercise, crunches are good at toning muscle, but basically useless when it comes to burning fat (about 200 calories per 100 crunches). Effectively, you could have the best abs in the world, they’re just hidden behind a layer of fat (don’t worry, I know that feel bro).

Another argument is that crunches are bad for your back. Let’s compare crunches to the Bender Ball method, shall we? In a traditional crunch, your back is either completely touching the ground or touching the ground from just below your shoulders down. For those of you who have never had a physics class, this large area of surface contact decreases points pressure, this decreasing the probability of pain.

With the Bender Ball, however, the entire motion is completed with the weight of a person’s upper body concentrated on a small ball anchored at your lower back. The area of contact is much smaller, creating a pressure point at your lower back. I don’t know if you’ve ever suffered from lower back pain, but I promise you washboard abs are not worth it.

In an age of innovation where it pays to reinvent the wheel, exercise is one wheel that should be left just how it is. People want to be skinnier fast, buffer faster, faster faster, but they are ignoring potential dangers to their health. The problem is not with exercise, but with people’s attitudes towards exercise.

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