A recently published study claims that people don’t need to go to “the gym” if they want to be more physically fit.
The study found that a person can increase their cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory health just by walking more.
“People think they have to start going to the gym and exercising hard to get fitter,” noted study author Dr. Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm, in a release from the European Society of Cardiology. “But it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
“For most people, just being more active in daily life — taking the stairs, exiting the metro a station early, cycling to work — is enough to benefit health since levels are so low to start with. The more you do, the better,” he said.
According to his findings, relatively easy extra bouts of activity like taking the stairs at work or walking in the park are enough to make you more physically fit.
“The study analyzed 316,137 Swedish adults between the ages of 18-74 years old, all of whom had received their first occupational health screening between 1995 and 2015. Each person’s cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using a cycle test, and recorded via ‘maximal oxygen uptake’ or VO2 . Basically, VO2 refers to the maximum amount of oxygen a person’s heart and lungs can provide their muscles during physical activity or exercise,” StudyFinds.org noted.
Researchers then mined Swedish national registries for data on cardiovascular-related deaths or first-time cardiovascular events that participants suffered during the studied timeframe.
They discovered that for each milliliter of VO2 increase, the risk of participants’ death fell by 2.8 percent, while the risk of a cardiovascular event fell by 3.2 percent. The positive health benefits were seen in both men and women across all age groups and levels of fitness.
“It is particularly important to note that an increase in fitness was beneficial regardless of the starting point,” Dr. Ekblom-Bak said. “This suggests that people with lower levels cardiorespiratory fitness have the most to gain from boosting their fitness.”
This study appears to build on earlier research indicating that even small incremental increases in activity are good for us. And that’s a positive finding, for sure.
But let’s face it: If you’re trying to build the kind of fitness level required to deal with life’s most extreme situations, a namby-pamby fitness routine of convenience isn’t going to cut it.
I’m not trying to discount the research, but rather I’m trying to make a point: There are no shortcuts to building a level of physical fitness necessary when your job — or any of several life experiences — push you to extremes.
Police officers, soldiers, EMS personnel, firefighters, and those on the frontlines of keeping our communities safe from the barbarians at the gate aren’t going to get second chances. And we’re not going to get any consideration from those who mean us harm just because we chose to scrimp on our fitness program (and they didn’t).
A lot of fitness research today appears to be aimed at codifying and complimenting our comfortable lifestyles. That is the ‘politically correct’ thing to do, but it isn’t the practical thing to do. Like handing out participation trophies to kids at all sporting events, this kind of research conditions us that ‘just enough’ is not only adequate but qualifies as putting for some heroic extra effort.
It’s a lie, in other words.
There is only one way to prepare for life’s extremities and that is to train for them. Period. Cops and soldiers don’t go to the range simply to practice ‘shooting their guns,’ they go there to train for real-world situations where losing a gunfight means losing your life.
The same is true for EMS and firefighters, or it should be: Life is dangerous on the street and one slip-up can get you a lifetime’s worth of disability. Or a casket.
Extreme physical training will lead to extreme physical fitness, and in the vast majority of cases you, the extreme fitness preparedness guy or gal, will be far more prepared for what your opponent will throw at you versus the heat you will bring to them.
Getting after it does require a gym. It requires various equipment that most gyms don’t have. But most of all, it requires your commitment to becoming the badass machine you must become in order to survive in certain harrowing situations.
There are no shortcuts. And it takes more than just a walk in the park.
J. D., a former paramedic, firefighter, and 15-year military veteran of OEF, is co-founder of Survival Legion, a vet-owned company that stresses functional fitness and draws it’s uniqueness from the Roman Legions.