by Rahul Gupta
I continue swimming every day to increase my “endurance, lung capacity and lap length.” Starting from novice status a year back with lessons from Jack Siebold, I am currently able to streamline 100% of the pool length with a single breath and stroke through the rest of the length. The included chart from my Garmin Vivo Active 4, GPS smartwatch demonstrates the improvement of VO2 max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption during physical exertion) over the past year. VO2 max provides a quantitative value of endurance fitness and indicates cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance capacity. My VO2 max increased from 44 to 47 since I started swimming regularly. VO2 max is also an indicator of “Fitness Age” (as shown in the Vivo Active 4 chart). Our fitness age is largely determined by VO2 max. Unlike numerical age, fitness age decreases with increasing VO2 max. VO2 max improvement requires disciplined cardio workout performed regularly at an elevated heart rate.
The health researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) developed the concept of fitness age while researching physical activity and its correlation to healthy lifespan. They discovered that fitness age can help predict risk of heart disease and longevity. The CERG group published a study in 2014 demonstrating that those with fitness ages higher than their actual age had a higher risk of premature death compared to those with a lower fitness age.2 In a journal publication describing how exercise training reverses age-induced diastolic dysfunction and restores coronary microvascular function, the researchers demonstrated that these can be reversed through regular cardiovascular exercise even at an advanced age.3
According to a research study by Joel Stager, PhD, Director of Indiana University’s Councilman Center for the Science of Swimming, regular swimmers had the physiological functions of those who are 20 years younger. The American College of Sports Medicine Conference demonstrated that a swimmer’s vital statistics and cognitive functions resembled those of someone much younger.4
Taking preventative measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle is crucial to slow down and even reverse the effects of aging. One way to do this is to eat a healthy diet and try various workouts. According to swimming.org “30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of land-based exercise.” Swimming can prevent heart disease in three significant ways: by lowering blood pressure levels, by helping you maintain cholesterol levels through burning fat, and by boosting metabolism. When combined with a healthy diet, swimming can be vital to staying younger longer.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a form of fasting where one would go for 12+ hour intervals without food (except for water). Intermittent fasting holds the potential for significant benefits such as weight loss, reversal of type 2 diabetes and many more. Historically speaking, humans were hunters and gatherers who evolved withstanding long and harsh periods without food intake. Therefore, humans have been practicing intermittent fasting over 1000s of years!
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine5, the benefits of intermittent fasting include longevity, leaner body, and sharper mind. The research demonstrated that the metabolic switch during intermittent fasting can protect organs against type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, and several form of cancers. Some of the benefits observed during research are listed below:5
- Brain health: Improved memory in adult humans.
- Heart health: Improved blood pressure and resting heart rates.
- Physical health: Fasting for 16 hours showed fat loss without muscle loss.
- Diabetes and obesity: In multiple studies, obese adult humans lost weight.
- Tissue health: Reduced tissue damage in surgery in animal testing.
Intermittent fasting allows the body to use the energy stored in excess body fat. The insulin hormone is responsible for creation of the stored food energy in our body. Through the process called “glycogenesis”, carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose units then stored in the liver or muscle. Since the storage space for carbohydrates is limited, the liver starts converting the excess glucose into fat, some of which is stored in the liver and most of which is stored in other areas of the body. There is practically no limit to the amount of fat that can be created and stored, leading to weight gain and obesity! With intermittent fasting, insulin and blood glucose levels go down, creating an environment in which the body can more effectively burn stored fat.
I started practicing intermittent fasting during 2019 and practice fasted cardio. I skip breakfast and take supper as my main meal early in the evening with lean protein and salad along with ample fruits and vegetables. The journey wasn’t smooth and easy at the beginning, but over time my body got used this routine. Based on my personal experience, I didn’t feel lack of energy or strength, BUT everyone’s body is different, and the experience might be different for others. Our bodies are amazingly resilient and adaptive, and they can adjust to changed routines with discipline and motivation.
Disclaimer: Despite having many potential benefits, intermittent fasting is still controversial, and it is not recommended for minors, those who suffer from eating disorders, or pregnant women. Talk to your health care provider with questions or concerns about whether intermittent fasting
is right for you.
- “How Swimming Can Prevent Heart Disease.” Just Swim, 11 July 2016, http://www.swimming.org/justswim/swimming-can-prevent-heart-disease/