Total Fitness in 30 Minutes - Fitness is a Piece of Cake (Laurence E. Morehouse)

Today's blog will be sharing Laurence E. Morehouse's total fitness in 30 minutes. If you are someone that does not like a formalized, rigid or punitive exercise program, then, this blog is for you.

Laurence E. Morehouse, Ph.D., a professor of exercise physiology and founder and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles tells her story and the story of easy fitness.

I hate to exercise. I always have. In high school, I was the gym-class rebel. When the rest of the class did calisthenics with their arms, I mimicked them with my fingers. My friends thought I was hilarious. My gym teacher didn't think so. One day he called me into his office and said, "I notice that you like to lead a little group. I'm going to give you the opportunity to lead the entire class."

It was one thing to be a cut-up. It was another to be a fool. I spent the weekend reading books on physical conditioning. When the teacher called on me the following Monday, I was ready. From then on, I led the class in calisthenics, and he sat in his office and read the newspaper. I didn't know it at the time, but the assignment shaped my life.


Exercise programs are often so rigorous that those who attempt them are injured. The goals of fitness are placed beyond the average person's reach. The mystique fostered by the fitness cult encourages the belief that good physical condition comes slowly, that work to exhaustion is necessary, and that process requires special equipment, space, supervision, and an abundance of time. Men should look like Tarzan. Women should resemble his Jane. It is all nonsense. 

The science of physical fitness concerns itself primarily with athletes. Physical-fitness "experts" are usually athletic coaches. Books on jogging are written by track coaches. The training they impose on the public reflects their orientation. But an athlete is a different person, physiologically and physiologically, from a non-athlete. Athletes will take the time to train. This will sacrifice social pleasures, endure discomfort, and even punish themselves to create the tolerances required for record-breaking performances. These attributes do not characterize the majority of people. 

A secondary emphasis of the science of fitness is in therapy for persons recuperating from illness. In therapy, you concentrate on the injured or diseased part, rather than on the body as a whole. Those fitness programs that focus on isolated body parts stem from a therapeutic orientation. Once again, the objectives and techniques of exercise have almost no bearing on the needs of normal people. 

So we find exercise concentrated at two extremes of human conditions - superhuman conditions superbly fit athletes at one end, and hospital patients on the mend at the other. In the center of the spectrum are the overwhelming majority of non-athletic individuals who are healthy and capable of exertion and yet do almost no exercise at all. 

Our cultural values reinforce their lassitude. We esteem those who can ride rather than walk and who can sit rather than stand. The higher one rises in the hierarchy, the greater one's comfort and ease. Wealthy golfers drive golf carts. We hire athletes to perform for us so that we can enjoy sports vicariously. We buy expensive, fuel-costly devices promoted as energy "savers". They're not saving us a thing; they're depriving us of the movement and exertion we need to live an energetic life. 


The fountain of youth for which Ponce de Leon searched in vain was right inside his body. Exercise is the means to an alert, vigorous and lengthy life. Inactivity will kill you.

The more common signs of physiological aging are less dramatic but no less remorseless - infirmity, feebleness, frailness, sallowness, low energy, and loss of fight against gravity. Physiological aging pulls you down; your height diminishes, your body stoops, and you dodder.

But while chronological age is invariable, physiological age has a variable of thirty years. Suppose you are fifty. You can have the outward appearance and the internal system of a sixty-five-year-old or a thirty-five-year-old. It's entirely up to you. An inactive life is a slow form of suicide. The right kind of exercise buys years.

Exercise should not be hateful, punishing, interminable and dull. It needn't be any of these. Fitness is a piece of cake. You can achieve and maintain fitness in just twice the amount of time you require to brush your teeth. You need about fifteen minutes a week to brush your teeth. You need about thirty minutes a week to be fit.


Before I tell you what you can do with those thirty minutes, let me tell you what you won't have to do to stay fit. You don't have to kill yourself. You will never exercise to the point of exhaustion. You don't have to feel guilty if you fall off the wagon on any given day. If you just haven't got it, don't worry about it. Quit exercising, and try again tomorrow or the next day. 

You don't have to eliminate foods or beverages of any kind. Diets that restrict the kinds of foods you can eat or that grossly curtail your intake are inhuman, injurious, and doomed to fail. If weight loss is your goal, you can do it on a wide-variety diet that we'll talk about extensively further on. You'll also learn why you may be required to gain weight at times to assure yourself of an eventual permanent weight loss. 

You don't have to run a certain distance, race against a clock, or lift so much weight so many times. You don't have to feel that your goal is unachievable. It will be a goal that reflects your condition, your capacity for physical effort, and your needs and objectives. And you don't have to spend a penny. There are no gimmicks to buy or pills to swallow.


A program like this would have to be different from any previous fitness program. It is.

All previous programs measure the work you produce the distance you run or the speed at which you run it or the number of times you can accomplish a specific task. This program ignores exterior accomplishments in favor of interior results. This system is interested in any one thing, the effect you produce on your body. You regulate that effect entirely. You produce exactly the response to the effort that you wish and require. 

The problem with previous exercise systems is that they assign tasks that either is too difficult at the outset or become easier and easier to perform. It is all very well to run or swim faster or farther, but if your internal system is not responding to the right degree you're not achieving fitness.

Previous systems program you into specific tasks. This system offers you your choice of any activity you find enjoyable. All that matters is that the activity churns your system to a level appropriate for your circulo-respiratory system, your heart and vessels, and your lungs. You do this by taking your pulse which you'll shortly learn to do in the coming blogs.


Heart rate and pulse rate, technically, are separate phenomena. But the difference, for our purpose, is not significant. Your pulse tells you how fast your heart is beating.

We all know that pulse rate is important. When you go to a doctor's office for a checkup, there are three things his nurse almost invariably does: she takes your temperature, weighs you, and takes your pulse. If you've ever spent any time in a hospital, one of the first things you become aware of is that people are taking your pulse all day long. They awaken you in the morning, or during your afternoon nap, and they come in at night just as you're falling asleep. They must compare your pulse rates during your course of treatment. 

We know now that pulse rate is not related merely to illness but also health. Sickness is indicated by a too-rapid pulse or one that is not beating rhythmically. Health is indicated by one's pulse-rate response to stress. 

With five minutes of training, you can learn to interpret your well-being by taking your pulse. You can also note the difference in your emotional state from day to day. If you're excited, your pulse races. When you're calm and tranquil, your pulse reflects that rhythm. In a sense, the pulse is an aspect of your countenance. 

Your normal pulse rate may be extremely fast or extremely slow compared to the norms and yet to be normal for you. You could have a pulse rate of 90 beats a minute while seated and yet be in a better condition than someone with a normal rate of 45 beats a minute.


The maximum level of trainability for any man or woman is when or she starts training at the age of ten and trains even thereafter without getting sick. No one ever does that. All of us can only approach our potential. None of us ever reaches it. If you are 50 and you haven't worked out for 20 years, you can never get to the level of condition you would have achieved had you continued to play the tennis you played in college. If you wanted to be the best possible 60 years old, the time to start was when you were ten. But you can start at 50, having sloughed off since you were 20, and be an astonishingly splendid 60. 

You may not be in such bad shape as you thought you were. If you've been climbing stairs or hauling heavy bags of groceries or polishing your car or even swinging a baby, you probably don't have far to go to be in decent shape.

There's no reason not to be in shape. It's so easy. It takes so little time. The response you get from the slightest amount of exercise is so great. You're immediately rewarded with a feeling of increased well-being. With exercise, you're livelier and longer. The period during which you're half dead is reduced. And you reduce the prospects of premature deaths. 

We'll start you with what you can do, no matter how little that is. Each day, you'll do just a little more, but so little that you'll scarcely notice. This all but infinitesimal increase is known as "overload". It is the foundation of pulse-rated exercise and the key to its success.

Fitness is determined by what you do 24 hours a day, how you live, work, sit, walk, think, eat, and sleep. Its purpose is to help you enjoy life, not to punish you or make you feel guilty. Life has enough burdens and prohibitions without adding to them. Just as you can become temporarily ill when you stop smoking, you can add to your deteriorative state by feeling anxious and guilty about skipping an exercise session, or by forcing yourself to do something you don't enjoy doing.

This is not a young athlete's program. It is for the individual, man or woman, who wants a substantial reserve of fitness. It dispels late-day drag, makes physical recreation more enjoyable, gives you a sense of muscle tone, self-awareness, and readiness, and makes you more comfortable and secure because you know that if there's an emergency, you're better able to handle it. If you have to change a tire in the rain, you can do it without exhausting yourself. You can work an occasional 18-hour day and not need a week to recover. One not unimportant dividend is that you'll be a better lover.

I repeat, I hate formalized, rigid, punitive exercises. I hate it all the more now that I have the science to support my instinctive knowledge that it simply isn't necessary.


The accompanying chart will locate your Training Pulse Rate for eight-week period. Stay at that level, whatever it is. You'll have plenty of challenge getting it up there each week that you improve.

The Training Pulse Rate is figured by multiplying the difference between 220 and your age by 60 percent and the first period, seventy percent the second, and eighty percent the third and thereafter.

If you are forty years old, for example, the remainder from 220 is 180. Multiplied by 0.60, that is 108. We round it off to 110.

Age  TPR-1 TPR-2 TPR-3 TPR-4
Under 30 120 140 150 150-160
30-44 110 130 140 140-150
45-60 100 120 130 130-140
Over 60 100 110 120 120-130


TPR = Training Pulse Rate

TPR-1 = TPR for the first 8 weeks - about 60% maximum PR (220 minus age, * 0.60)

TPR-2 = TPR for the second 8 weeks - about 70% maximum PR 

TPR-3 = TPR for the third 8 weeks - about 80% maximum PR

TPR-4 = TPR for the fourth 8 weeks and beyond ("main tenance" level)

Use your pulse as a checkpoint to gauge the accuracy of your perception of exertion, so that you can find the intensity which is just right for you. Usually a feeling of "mild" or "moderate" exertion, one which is neither light nor heavy, during continuous effort is matched by a pulse rate of about 120 per minute. After you have once established your perception of exertion level, you need only to check it against the pulse once in a while. As your condition improves you'll notice that you're doing more work (walking faster, pedalling harder) to produce the same "moderate" level and your pulse stays about the same, 120 per minute. If your condition deteriorates due to a layoff or slight illness, the same exertion will produce less work. You'll walk slower or cycle less hard to reach the "moderate" level. 

Without incorporating pulse rate, the most sophisticated exercise programs won't work. Standardized regimens promise that if you adhere to a certain schedule, your performance will increase to a certain level without fail. True enough. You'll get a certain performance. But what's the performance doing to you? It may be doing almost nothing. Or it may be killing you. Electronic programs are faulty for the same reason. In these, the load is set up so that each time you can challenge yourself to do a little more. The two embodying ideas are motivation and progressive overload. But if you don't know your physiological parameters and where such exercise puts you within them, you could be hurting yourself or spinning your wheels. There is no way to tell, unless you take your pulse.



Laurence E. Morehouse, Ph.D. Total Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week. Simon and Schuster, 1975.