ADL: The Killer Workout

In past blogs, we've explored exercise regimens that enlist fast twitch fibers, deplete glycogen, tear down the build muscles, maximize heart rates, etc. -- hard core exercise stuff with lots of sweat and some science.

This blog is different because it's more mundane, though just as important as any about the cutting edge, ultra, exercise theories. In fact, given some of the recent findings by physiologists, maybe it's more important, especially if your job keeps you on your butt in front of a computer much of the day or you like to watch hours of TV or spend hours reading books like the bestseller 50 Shades of Grey.

I made an unexpected discovery over the past three weeks as my wife and I moved from Colorado to Oregon. First there was the packing, then then the move, then the unloading. Then, once in the house we rented, there was fix up, cleaning, and taming (I can't think of a better word) the yard, once no doubt a thing of beauty, but that had been neglected for years.

During those weeks I formally "worked out" only a couple of times, that is, put on exercise shorts, wick away t-shirts, Five Fingers or Montrails, and counted reps or minutes. Rarely was I out of breath or my muscles burning. But by the time bedtime rolled around, I was exhausted. My body was shot  from non-stop ADL.

ADL is a physical therapist/sports physiologist/orthopaedist catchall phrase for the Activities of Daily Living, the basic physical activities we typically do every day - push, pull, lift, lunge and squat. Very important functional movements.We don't even think about them much, though they are really the basis for every exercise routine we ever do.

I was really surprised after finding the bathroom scales in a moving box and standing on them. During the move, I had lost 5 pounds, more than I did in my typical workweek when I did my usual exercise - ketttlebells, running, weight lifting, calisthenics, HIT, Navy Seal routines, etc. In the average week, this TOJ about 260 - 300 minutes of moderate to hard exercise.

And during that time of moving and moving in, I ate every chance I got and drank lots of water (yeah, beer, too). What had changed?

I grabbed my copy of Jay Hoffman's Norms for Fitness, Performance and Health and looked up the energy expenditure/minute of various physical activities, from competitive sports to yard work. The charts are based on body weight. I guessed that on average in my workouts I burn somewhere  between 12 - 15 calories/minute. During the move and taming the yard, I burned between 6 - 8 calories/min., which doesn't sound like much. So why the weight loss?

Because I was burning 6 calories per minute for a minimum of 6 hours per day, which equates to 1,500 calories per day. On a hard workout day I might burn 900. That's a 600 calorie/day difference of ADL over exercise. During that period, I burned about 4,200 more calories each week. A pound of fat (sure, throw in a little water loss) is about 3,500 calories. The math shows I should have lost about 4 pounds, which is just what happened.

My point is not to stop doing the usual hard "exercise" because it's good for our hearts, muscles, bones, metabolism and mental health. I love it.

However, ADL is exercise, too. Everyday physical labor counts. It's good for us too, more than we know.

More about this in the next couple of days...

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