The No Sweat Exercise Plan

For the past two decades, fitness experts have been telling us that to get the benefits of exercise you had to do aerobics. And you had to work out hard. There was even a way to calculate whether your exercise was hard enough to do any good: You were supposed to subtract your age from 220, exercise intensely enough to get your heart rate up to 70–85 percent of that number and keep it there for twenty minutes.

Now it turns out that the advice we were given was very far from the whole picture. “Moderate exercise can really produce enormous gains for health,” says Harvey Simon, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Simon should know. He was one of the strongest advocates for the “more is better” philosophy that’s predominated in the fitness industry for the last twenty years. “I used to say that golf was the perfect way to ruin a four mile walk,” Dr. Simon says ruefully, “because it was only exercise at a moderate level, it didn’t bring your heart rate up and your walk is constantly interrupted. Then a study was published in the American Journal of Medicine that found men who simply added golf playing to their normal daily routine lost weight, lowered their girth and improved their cholesterol levels. That got me thinking.”

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