Archive for September, 2010

Getting More Exercise Results in Less Time with the 80/20 Principle

Thursday, September 9th, 2010


Getting the Most out of Your Healthy Lifestyle

Achieve more with less. Doesn’t that sound like the dream we all have? When it seems like every last minute of the day is crammed with obligations, exercise is often pushed to the bottom of the list. But what if we could get better results with less time?

A concept that I use and teach is the 80-20 Principle. Some of you might recognize this from economics or management courses. Yet it has applications across all aspects of life. And it is a way of thinking that can revolutionize your approach to healthy living.

The 80-20 Principle originated with the Italian economist Vilfredo Paredo a couple of hundred years ago. His original work found that 20% of the population held 80% of the wealth. The concepts were eventually expanded upon in 1941 by Joseph Juran, an industrial “quality guru”. Juran recognized that the 80-20 Principle could be applied to many business and production issues. He defined the principle by saying that 80% of the consequences can be attributed to 20% of the causes. Let’s look at a few interesting examples of the 80-20 Principle:

*20% of your clothes are worn 80% of the time
*20% of your friends get 80% of your attention
*20% of criminals commit 80% of the crime
*20% of the population is responsible for 80% of the health care cost
*20% of the carpet in your house, gets 80% of the wear

It’s astounding how this principle plays out. Of course the numbers may not be exactly 80-20, but the discrepancy in the ratio is usually profound.

Currently, we are under the misconception that everything that we do for our health has a 50-50 ratio. In other words, there is an equal amount of return for every effort you put forth. You probably believe that everything you do for your health contributes equally to the positive results you achieve. But that is not the case. The 80-20 Principle tells us that we are getting more benefit from some of what we do and much less from other things. Juran emphasizes that we should be more concerned with the “vital few” than the “trivial many”.
Pareto Principle

If you were to evaluate what your current healthy lifestyle looks like, can you determine if the strategy you are using or have been using is giving you the maximal results you seek? For example, do you know someone who takes four, five even six classes a week and has plateued for months or even years toward their goal or improved body composition or weight reduction? Is another hour of cardio on top of six classes a week really going to significantly propel that person to a higher level of fitness? It’s not likely.

If that person were to evaluate what they are doing, they might realize that their busy lifestyle has them eating processed foods because they do all of their shopping at the local supermarket for convenience. Instead, they could use that extra hour a week to shop for healthy food choices at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods.

Or they might realize that they are exercising below the intensity level they need because they are always tired or on the verge of an injury. A solution might be to take a restorative yoga class that helps them better appreciate the mind-body connection and its role in repair and recovery.

The point is that all of us are getting more benefit from certain parts of our healthy lifestyle choices than we are from others. We can maximize our results by finding out what is working the best and eliminating or reducing time/effort on those that are not.

Don’t waste 15 or 20 minutes at the gym of what I call “random stretching”. This is a stretching session where one takes a shotgun approach-hitting all the major muscle groups (whether they need it or not) in one dimension in space. You could get exponentially more benefit from a strategic corrective exercise program that is focused on what your needs are. And all this can be done in the same amount of time with much more tangible results.

Do you really need an hour of the treadmill, when your body might respond better to 30 minutes of metabolic training? Exercise is a science. The more specific the programming is to your needs the better your results will be. Find your 20% and exploit it to supercharge your results.

We are here to help you.