Your best defense is a strong immune system. Poor metabolic health increases your vulnerability to all diseases and causes of mortality including COVID-19. Poor metabolic health manifests as increasing insulin resistance.
The best ways of combating insulin resistance are:
1) Good nutrition
2) Adequate sleep
4) Managing lifestyle stress
I’ve put them in the order to which I believe they should be prioritized. I believe that nutrition and sleep are the number one factors in maintaining good metabolic health with exercise ranking third. In my mind the biggest benefit to exercise is that it provides a mental release from stress and provides the metabolic capacity to get away with eating a few empty calories (like the banana split I ate for dessert at lunch on Thursday) that would be damaging to you if you were sedentary. Exercise to me is a hedge against the damages of a stressful lifestyle and the dangers of a culture of excess culinary temptations.
So what are the factors that lead to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance?
1) Higher than average blood glucose sensitivity (diabetic or pre-diabetic)
2) Higher than normal blood pressure (120/180)
3) Having a waist circumference greater than 102 cm male, 88 cm female or 90 cm and 85 cm for South Asians
4) High triglycerides (please note cholesterol itself is not a factor)
5) Lower HDL
Optimal metabolic health would see all 5 markers normal. It is estimated that in the US today only 1 in 8 people test as metabolically optimal across all 5 factors. Among Americans ages 20-40 this number is 1 in 4 or only 25% of the population. Metabolic Syndrome is diagnosed when you test below normal for 3 or more of these factors, this is when real health problems begin to emerge. The average person hospitalized for COVID tests below par on 2.6 of these factors.
The good news is that most of these risk factors can be mediated through dietary changes alone! But, when it comes to eating right, it requires you to understand that food isn’t good because the food processor labels it as good, it’s good because it comes to you from nature without a package! Vegan, keto, macros, Mediterranean diet, I don’t care how you’re eating, if most of your food is coming from unprocessed, real food sources, you’re probably going to be okay!
And while we’re discussing optimizing your health I’d like to address breathing because it is a simple yet critical skill that doesn’t get enough attention. Lately programs like the Wim Hoff Method, XPT, Z-Health and Original Strength have become increasingly popular because of the results they produce by training people to breathe effectively (Yoga has been doing this for as very long time)!
Unfortunately, many people are habitually shallow breathers and are unintentionally sabotaging their health. Here are some of the benefits of an effective breathing practice:
1) Improved brain health and function
2) Increased visceral movement (better digestion and elimination for example – better nutrition)
3) Pelvic floor health and core strength (fewer injuries)
4) Decreases stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system helping you better recover from lifestyle stressors and training
5) Shallow breathing often is associated with a difficulty in losing weight which may contribute to metabolic dysfunction
Do you begin to see how this all ties together? As much as I love training, health and fitness does not begin with a barbell, the foundation to your health lies in healthy breathing, eating and sleeping habits. And when you get good at these you will notice a marked improvement in both your training performance and the results you produce from your training. Even if a banana split finds it’s way onto your menu from time-to-time. I really love the way that CrossFit, HEAL and Original Strength have completed the picture for me and at 48 years old am excited to see my health and fitness measures accelerating in the right direction as I begin to look and feel better than ever with less effort than I believed necessary.
Optimal health is your best defense against everything life can throw your way. CrossFit training can be an important part of your defense strategy but working out is not on its own enough to optimize your health and performance!
1 min Belly Breathing
1 min Head Nods/Rotations
1 min Dead Bug
1 min Egg Roll
1 min Hollow Rock
1 min Bird Dog
1 min Ring Plank Hold
1 min OS Push Up
1 min Table Pose
1 min Cross Crawl
1 min Skipping
Ring Push Up
20 min AMRAP
30 sec Ring L-Hold/or L-Sit on floor
15 Ring Push Ups/or Push ups
50 DU/or Jumping Double Claps
Walk the Dog