Exercising in your sleep - extraordinary

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Recently, I found out that I exercise in my sleep. It was an extraordinary discovery, since I’m not a big fan of exercise, just a fan of the results.

I got the news at Banner Churchill Community Hospital while I had my resting metabolic rate (RMR) tested with a user-friendly machine in a relaxing, quiet room. The test was facilitated by Mary Koch, registered dietitian.

My RMR is the amount of calories it takes to keep me alive and well if I do nothing more than lie in bed for 24 hours and get waited on hand and foot. The machine prints out a tidy report about what it expects my RMR to be and what it really is. My RMR was much higher than anticipated based on my age, weight, height, and gender. The report said I had a ‘high metabolism’.

If I have anything, it’s not a high metabolism. I come from a long line of short, round folks, who are really nice, but none of whom can eat three times their body weight and still look like it’s a famine.

This RMR test was a great ending to an experiment I had started a couple of years earlier. My experiment was to start supplementing my usual half hour walk down the railroad tracks four or five times per week with some at-home strength training on two or three days of the week. The reason was my cholesterol had been climbing and I had read that strength training helps lower cholesterol. I had also been experiencing the battle of the bulge that my three older sisters fought and lost upon entering their fourth decade. Again, strength training was touted as an important war tactic.

My experiment started with going to Banner and getting a blood draw to see what my current cholesterol level was. Every Wednesday these labs are extremely affordable through Banner’s Wellness Wednesday program. About every nine months for a couple of years I slipped down to Banner and had a blood draw to check on the results of my experiment and sure enough, my cholesterol landed in the recommended range and stayed. After the first few months I could also see that simple strength training was definitely going to win the war regarding needing a whole new wardrobe.

But the clincher was when I found out that the hour or so a week I spent strengthening my muscles was actually accomplishing the equivalent of exercising in my sleep. 25 percent of RMR calories go to maintaining muscles. The other 75 percent are used for things like brain, liver, heart, kidney, and digestion functions. Gain four and a half pounds of muscle and keep it on and it will consume as many calories in 24 hours as running one mile, even if you are sleeping in a recliner all day. Now that’s what I call exercise!

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