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The Expedition: January Edition

Ideal VO2 and BMI, an Exercise That'll Help You Conquer Mountains, and more ...

The Expedition: January Edition


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Onto today’s post: The Expedition

This monthly series is a journey into thoughts, opinions, ideas, observations, studies, facts, figures, etc. Good ones, bad ones, insightful ones, dumb ones, and ones you can use to live better.

It’s a roundup of all the worthwhile stuff I’ve encountered in the last month. It’s a bit of an island of misfit toys. But, hey, the greatest journeys are winding. We’re covering:

  • A good book on how your thoughts impact your health.

  • Numbers on:

    • Brain supplements

    • The ideal amount of exercise

    • The optimal BMI for optimal VO2

    • A simple number for weight control

  • How to make a 2-Percenter miserable.

  • An exercise that’ll help you conquer mountains.

  • How to identify ultraprocessed foods.

  • Two great quotes.

  • An important parting question.

Enjoy …

A book I’m reading: The Mindful Body, Ellen Langer

Before the pop mindfulness movement, there was Ellen Langer. She’s considered “the mother of mindfulness” and is Harvard’s first tenured female psychology professor. Her work shows that our perceptions influence our health outcomes.

But the medical system and its use of labels alters our perceptions. E.g. Terms like “pre-diabetic,” “diabetic,” “stage-IV,” etc change disease outcomes.

These labels are based on arbitrary cutoffs and human judgments. They’re not absolutes. Yet when we get a label, we often believe it’s an absolute. This often shifts our behavior and mindset—which can be good or bad, depending on the label.

The book includes many fascinating case studies about how altering perception changes health. Here’s my favorite:

Langer conducted a study where she took elderly people and had them live together in a house “that was retrofitted to suggest that time had gone backward twenty years.” All the people saw improvements in their health markers. Their eyesight and hearing improved. They became stronger.


By the numbers


Percent of 8-foot putts PGA pros make. Semi-pro golfers make a putt from that distance 41 percent of the time. Average golfers make it 27 percent of the time.

Golf is hard. And soul-sucking.


Number of minutes of daily exercise it took to eliminate the harms of sitting all day.

Exercising 25 minutes a day wasn’t enough to offset the mortality harms of sitting all day.

Simpler solution: Be a 2-Percenter. Try to sneak activity into your day so you don’t incur the harms of being sedentary—then any exercise is an added health bonus.

Go deeper


Effect Alpha Brain supplement had on mood, sustained attention, or handgrip strength.


22 to 23

The “sweet spot” BMI for VO2.

BMI suffers at BMIs below 20 and above 25. The middle ground of a BMI between 22 and 23 is where VO2 is optimized.

That’s according to the exercise physiologist Alan Couzens. He explained:

As a general rule, the larger the athlete (even if the largeness is 'good' via muscle), the less aerobic the athlete.

Go deeper here and calculate your BMI here.


Average BMI of Olympic gold medal-winning cross-country skiers.


≥ 25

Grams of fiber a day associated with a healthier weight in a study conducted over ten years.


3 to 5

Times the recommended physical activity minimum that gives you the most longevity benefits.

You could achieve that by rucking at a fast pace for 2.5 to 4 hours total a week.

How to make a 2-Percenter miserable, on-edge, burnt out, and insufferable: Force them to be sedentary.

Researchers in the UK took a group of active people who exercised at least three hours a week. They asked the group to be as sedentary as possible and wear activity trackers to ensure they didn’t cheat.

After two weeks, the active people who were forced to be sedentary:

  • Had higher rates of anxiety
  • Experienced more fatigue
  • Were more angry and hostile to others
  • Showed increased inflammatory response to stress

The takeaway: Feeling restless, irritable, and discontent? Take a walk.


An exercise that’ll help you conquer mountains

I like exercises that make me better outdoors. And being better outdoors requires a strong core and lower body. Enter this exercise.