TED Conversations

Markita Staples

Owner, SweshFit

This conversation is closed.

Creating new ways to measure the achievements and effects of working out.

The biggest trend is to obsess over the number of calories burned during a workout. However, if this was really of utmost importance, we should all just run, jump rope, and perform other high-exertion exercises, as these have been shown to burn the most calories. However, interval training and boot camps have become increasingly popular and tend to also focus on building muscle and agility. There is still a disconnect because people want to measure the effectiveness of these workouts based on calories burned, and you simply don't burn as many calories with other types of exercise.

How could we measure these strength gain benefits in terms of the things most people value, which are physical changes and weight loss? How do you see the health technology space changing as we become smarter about how to track things like muscle gains and body tone?

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  • May 2 2014: Self-comparison of well-being.
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      May 2 2014: Interesting Rodrigo. Would you measure that in some type of quantitative way?
      • May 3 2014: Count the number of smiles or smiles-back? S-miles per hour, 's-mph'!
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          May 5 2014: Haha I like it! At the end of the day, that's what matters most.
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    May 2 2014: if you can measure how many calories are burned in a running and jump rope session, why can't you measure it in an interval and bootcamp session?

    Just for fun, I'll tell you how I keep my weight down. For about five years now, I have been living on fluid milk products (cow). Every day I drink close to two gallons of some kind of cow milk, skim, 1%, 2%, whole, plus a little pure cream here and there, and hardly eat or drink anything else. It has been fantastic for my health, and also for my weight, on this diet I easily maintain at 165 pounds at six feet, one inch. I believe this diet would help with many diseases, such as AIDS and cancer, and am trying to interest the medical establishment in testing it. I got the idea from the Masai tribe of Kenya, famous for living only on milk and beef from their cattle.
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      May 2 2014: Greg - The issue is that calories don't tell the entire picture. For example, if you wear a heart rate monitor during a really tough session of lifting, you're not going to see many calories burned. However, you'll burn more in a moderately intense aerobics class. Does that mean your weight lifting session wasn't challenging? Of course not. The benefit from strength training comes from increased muscle mass and there is currently no way to track that.

      Your diet is really interesting. A lot of the popular diets out there (namely Paleo) discourage dairy. Also, so many people are lactose-intolerant that alternatives like soy and almond milk have gotten really popular. I'll have to look into the Masai tribe.
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        May 2 2014: Markita, is the benefit from increased muscle mass that you feel you look better? In that case it might be smart to talk to someone who judges bodybuilding competitions to see how they really assess who looks the best?
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          May 5 2014: This is a fantastic idea. Yes, that is exactly the idea. My clients are more concerns with aesthetics than how strong they are, and strength training does help with that. It might be even more insightful to talk to a bodybuilding coach to understand how a specific training program impacts muscle development in their clients.
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        May 2 2014: yes, the way I got into the masai was I was cutting these lines into my hair a couple of decades ago, kind of emulating African-Americans, and one day I said to myself, "Hey, I look like a Masai warrior." Then I went "Wait a second, what's a Masai warrior?" So I went to the library and started reading about the Masai, and it was a great experience because what I was reading I was going "Yep, I agree. Yes, that's right. Yes, now that you mention it, that's also true." Everything I was reading I liked, and I had not had that experience before. Well, I was living in Hollywood, California at that time, but I very quickly moved to a city called Ontario, California, about 50 miles east of Hollywood, where there was a great deal of cattle and dairy farming. Tried for three years to get a job milking cows, could not, but still enjoyed walking from farm to farm asking. I also formed a plan to move to Kenya and join the tribe, I made a Masai friend studying here in the U.S. who was going to help me, but then I decided not to go. But you can live by Masai values here as well.

        Yes, as far as some of the other values of exercise, I wonder if the military has studied this topic, assessing people for how skillfully they can go over an obstacle course? Do you know any drill sergeants you can ask, or do you live near a military base you can phone? But why exactly can you not measure muscle mass, can't you just wrap a measuring tape around a bicep and measure it? Aren't there tests where they can measure percentage body fat?

        I do think that a great deal of the value of exercise is that it increases dexterity as well as sheer strength. I suppose to measure that you could have someone do some simple tasks and see how well and fast they can do them, then have them exercise for a couple of months and see if they can then do them better and faster? I'd also like to increase ambidexterity, just hosted a TED conversation on the topic like you're doing with this one.
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          May 5 2014: Yes you can measure changes in muscle mass but it's hard to say where they came from. When people lose weight, the assumption is that there was a calorie deficit (less food or more calories burned through activity). However, adding muscle can help improve the rate of weight loss (basal metabolic rate) and also allows the body to simply have a more defined look with more desirable proportions (abs, calves, a rounder buttocks) . But there is nothing to track the fact that say, 1000 push-ups or 500 squats got you there. You can more easily say that an hour of running burned 800 calories (even though these numbers lack accuracy). Make sense?

          There is a company, Athos, that has a new technology that measures the use of your muscle in the clothing you wear. I feel like things like this have to grow in popularity to match the hype of programs like CrossFit and HIIT workouts.
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          May 5 2014: Do you have the link to your discussion? Would love to read it even if it's closed.
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        May 5 2014: hey, markita, well, how precisely do you want to measure it? For example, I was looking at this link I believe it's from muscle and fitness magazine I think they're talking about the effect of nutrition on arm size, they say to make an initial measurement and then wait a month and measure again to see the difference. So if you were doing strength training you could make a similar measurement, wait a month, and measure again to see what effect the strength training had on arm size? I can't find anything that would measure so precisely that you could calculate the effects after a day of strength training, I probably wouldn't trust a tape measure as it would be a very small change, but we have so many precise measuring tools now that I would think a tool exists that could measure the changes after a day, or a tool could be developed. Maybe you should contact a scientist about your interest, like a university professor, are there any universities near you? They might know about really sophisticated measuring devices?

        You can see all a person's conversations by going to a little box to the left of this conversation, up towards the top, that says "search conversations." If you click the arrow, you'll get a chance to choose "conversations by," and you can see all the conversations someone has hosted, or "comments by," and I think you can see all the comments someone has made. I've hosted quite a few conversations on TED conversations, one I really enjoyed was "What have you learned from animals?" At least for a long time I myself found it really interesting to think about how animals do things and somewhat emulate them, at least in certain situations. Here are all my conversations: http://www.ted.com/conversations/search?type=name&cat=convos&term=greg+dahlen&submit=Go. I have a couple going right now that are slightly floundering, well, I really like them, but they haven't attracted many comments.
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        May 5 2014: I also really enjoyed the ambidexterity conversation. What happened, Markita, is I was living on milk for five years, and I realized that of all the different containers, pint, quart, half-gallon, and gallon, the gallon container was shaped most like a breast, round and full at the bottom and tapering to something like a nipple at the top. So I started drinking all my milk from gallon containers only. But then I realized in the last couple of months that I were a baby, I would drink from two breasts, so I started always having two one-gallon jugs out when I drank, I was lifting one with my right hand to drink and one with my left hand. What I discovered to my real surprise is that my stomach felt differently, I could tell that by first pouring milk in with the right hand and then with the left, the food was getting more evenly distributed throughout my stomach, I hadn't realized it before but when you pour in the milk with your left hand it goes to a different place in your mouth than when you pour it in with your right hand. And then, apparently it flows down your throat on different sides depending on where it started in your mouth and eventually ends up in a different place in your stomach. And it felt really good to have the food more evenly distributed through my stomach. I also found it affected me emotionally, I have greater well-being, my pants fit better because my stomach is shaped differently I guess. All my life I was terrified of bridges, but since I've been doing two-jug drinking I had an opportunity to walk over a bridge and I was hardly scared at all, I was stopping to admire the view, and I attribute it to this two-jug drinking, it balances out your stomach and changes your emotions for the better. Here is the conversation: http://www.ted.com/conversations/23638/work_on_becoming_more_ambidext.html
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        May 5 2014: here is the link to the one about exercise helps you acquire dexterity rather than strength, there I occasionally will work out with two gallon milk jugs, holding one in each hand (they have milk in them), and I think it makes me more dexterous as well as stronger, I wave them around, dance around and wave them. http://www.ted.com/conversations/18655/could_exercise_be_about_acquir.html

        When I said you could contact a university professor, Markita, sometimes a university professor will help you even if you aren't a student at that university, or any university. I've walked into a biology professor's office at my local junior college and he helped me with a question about the ears even though I don't attend classes there (I walked in during his office hours and there were no other students there.) In a way, it helps the professor because he gets to hear what people in the world are wondering about, even if it isn't his students.

        I was noticing that Paul Edward Anderson, the strongest man in the world, drank a gallon of milk a day: http://spease.hubpages.com/hub/Strongest-man-to-ever-live-Paul-Anderson

        If you want you can add more time to your conversation, just click edit and add more. I always make mine a month (the maximum), why not, the worst that can happen is noone will reply, but sometimes you do get comments later in the time period, people find your conversation 20 days in or like that.