Exercise: Data-Driven Decisions
sports & fitness | genome & microbiome
Laila Zemrani talks about the vast and often contradictory exercise space and how she found the exercise regimens that were the best fit for her body.
23andMe | Fitbit Aria
Exercise Data-Driven Decisions - Boston QS
A few years ago, I ran a survey to try to understand how people exercise when they go to the gym. Why do people do what they do? And so, one interesting result that I got out of it is that 60% of people admitted to not knowing at all why they were doing what they were doing. And by the way about half of the 60% even admitted to copying whatever their neighbors were doing so that they don’t look like a fool.
And so, for me it’s a question I’ve been trying to answer for about two years now, and it’s not an easy question because when it comes to exercise there are so many activities, so many things we could be doing.
So, just within 1 mile from where I live for example, there are about 279 businesses that I could go to, and many of them have a wide variety of classes and activities. And, if I wanted to design my own exercise plan for here again, according to the American Council on Exercise, there’s about 329 exercises or items in their library that I can choose from to design my own plan.
And, if I want to read about this subject it doesn’t always help. So, here for example we have the same source, the New York Times, two articles. One of them telling you why cardio is best for you and the other one is claiming that strength is something you should definitely be doing.
So at the end of the day I was left with the same question.
And so, my thinking here was what if I was able to track my activities and my results, and from there maybe try to see if there is something that appears to be working best for me. So the first element of the tracking journeys, and here it can be tricky because I cannot possibly try all types of physical activity in order to see which one is best for me and based on one.
And so, what I did here was that I categorize them into two major types, so the first one is strength and the second one is endurance. Why, because they don’t tend to fall into one category reverses the other, and also as humans we generally tend to be better at one versus the other.
So, strength includes for example activities like weightlifting, and bodyweight and endurance include activities like long-distance running. And so, what I did in this tracking journey is that I decided in March 2015, is that I alternated between strength and endurance.
So the second element in my tracking journey is the results, and here also it can be tricky because there is probably an unlimited number of results that can be associated with any type of exercise, right. Because you sleep better, you eat better. So, on this case I try to focus on one specific result which is my own improvement, or whether or not I was actually getting better at whatever I was doing. Because psychologically I realized that at the end of the day that’s what helped me stay on track and stayed motivated.
And the way I measured it in the case of strength is the amount of muscle mass that I was building or not, and the metric is body fat ratio. In the case of endurance, my activity was mostly long-distance running, and the way I measured it was the number of applications, my start for example and my metric was the time spent running the same distance.
So, in terms of results, here you see a graph that represents two things. In the bottom is the body fat and the other one is the lean mass. So, during the time when I focused on strength training, so here for example, in the second quarter of 2015, my body fat ratio decreased from 29% to 25%, which was pretty encouraging. And as I alternated between strength and endurance, the same pattern of improvement repeated itself.
Now on the other hand, there was a time when I focused on endurance training my results did not improve after one and a half years. So, what I did as well is I compared my results with the recent history of the US population, because it’s open information.
And so, here again it confirms that in good distances in endurance I tend to perform worse compared to the rest of the population than I do in shorter distances that I classify generally as strength.
So, all of this what does it mean? It means that strength is an activity that I tend to see improvement, as opposed to endurance where it’s an activity that I might not be good at. Now the next question is why? If this is true, then why and is there a way that I can properly doublecheck on this information.
And so, when it comes to exercise, the performance of the results, there are a number of factors that can impact that. So it can be environment and it can also be your genetics, so I decided to look at genetics. And what precisely I looked at was the latest product of 22andme limited edition which happens to have a report, one of their reports on exercise and which tells you on what side of the spectrum in strength or endurance do you fall.
And so, the reason being is that our muscles are made up of two types, so the first one is fast twitch and the second one is slow twitch and endurance athletes tend to have more slow twitch muscles to strength ones that tend to have more fast twitch muscles.
And the results he had confirmed that I am more likely to be on the strength side than the endurance side, so it confirmed the previous experiment.
So, taking a step back what I learnt from this journey is that while the world of fitness advice can be complicated, but it shouldn’t necessarily be because it’s not about the latest fad, and it’s not about what is being advertised to you or recommended or whatever your neighbor is doing at the gym, unless they are similar to you. But it’s mostly about yourself, and the key obviously to simplify the tracking process.
So it might be for example, and now less likely to be under the influence of whatever trend or product that has been advertised to me, and I designed a plan that I’m following, which is composed of the activities that I like that are 80% strength and 20% endurance.
And so, in conclusion what I learned as well is that we live in a world where we first generalize pretty much everything. Wellness or exercise strangely is one of these things that we don’t personalize much, pretty much one size for all things.
The question he is, what if someone was able to say to you for example, say within a five-mile radius of where you live, 80% of the people who are similar to you have reacted better to the specific exercise plan. Wouldn’t that be better and wouldn’t that lead to better outcomes.
So, with that, the next steps in my tracking journey they are going to be more around visualization and health visualization can impact behavior change, whether it’s a body shape or visualizing a number.
So, with that, I would like to thank you and my contact information is here. So, if you have any questions or would like to discuss any parts of the presentation I would be happy to chat.