How often should I exercise?

How Often Should I exercise?

This is a common question I get on a day-to-day basis, and a very difficult question to answer. 

The clients that I work with primarily have the goal of losing weight.  They often come to me with the idea that weight loss includes hours of hitting the pavement for huge runs each week.  This article helps to change this thought process, and realize that there are many forms of activity we should be doing in a week!

Depending on what your health goals are, the amount of exercise you need varies tremendously.  

For example:
–      Are you looking to lose weight?  Gain weight? 
–      Are you training for a sport or a competition?
–      Are you trying to gain size and strength?
–      Are you looking to improve general health, fitness, and mobility?

Many other factors also play into your exercise requirements, for example:
–      Are you a person that naturally feels invigorated after activity, and thrive off movement?  Or are you a more sedentary person who feels most energized from activities that involve less movement?
–      Is your job physical?
–      Does activity give you an overall feeling of relaxing, or does it stress you out further?

As well as:
–      What activities do you enjoy doing?
–      Do you live in an area with access to various facilities?
–      How much time REALISTICALLY can you devote to fitness at this point.
–      Do you have large chunks of time that you can spend exercising (an hour in a day), or do you need to break it up to fit it in?
–      What is your current level of fitness?

You can see how it can get quite confusing….
BUT I would like to offer something as a guideline.

These are my beliefs:
1)Every person, no matter what age should be doing some strength training.  This means using free weight or machines, whatever you are comfortable with, to build a strong body, which translates to strong bones, as well as many other health benefits.
 

Recommendation:  2-3 days a week of strength training.

2)  Flexibility/mobility/yoga/stretching.  Ideally this should be performed daily.  This doesn’t mean an hour every day, but learning how to do some general dynamic flexibility warm ups, mobility exercises, use a foam roller, keep the soft tissues of the body happy!

Daily mobility exercises.

3)  Activity.  This includes;  sports, walking, cycling, dancing, roller blading, pilates, hiking, etc.  These activities can be performed as much as you’d like!  Generally the body likes to stay in motion, and I find many of the activities I listed can become rhythmical and meditative.  These activities are meant to relax, have fun, and enjoy nature.  I would recommend that activity can and should be performed daily.  Whether this is a simple quick walk to buy some groceries, attending a dance class after work, or bringing the kids out to the park and playing with them!  These are the activities that will keep your spirit young!
Recommendation:  Perform “activity” daily.
4)  Cardiovascular activities, which include running, intense cycling, interval training, aerobics classes, any activity that gets the heart rate beating very quickly, and keeps it beating quickly!  I find this category the most difficult to answer. It is my belief that we don’t necessarily have to spend hours training cardiovascularly per week.  I think it is important to raise the heart rate to keep it working strong and efficiently, but I don’t necessarily see the benefit in going on huge runs or cycling for hours.  UNLESS… you love doing the activity, you are training for something, there is a social aspect to it, or it relaxes you.  For me, endless cardio stresses me out, wipes me out for the rest of the day, and makes me want to eat my entire kitchen!  So instead I try to do total about 1 hour of cardio throughout the week, and this generally includes some interval training on the treadmill or outdoors, or going for a 20 minute jog along the beach at sunset.  I think often people become obsessed with cardio and spend their workout time on the treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes, and forget about the other important aspects of exercise!
Recommendation:  Get the heart rate up a few times per week, but don’t over do it.

At the end of the week you most likely will end up with about minimum 5 hours a week of all forms of activity.  Doable?  I think so.  Do as much low intensity activity as you’d like as long as you aren’t running your body into the ground, you are making time for all the other fundamental aspects of life, and you are taking time to recover!  All of these forms of fitness can be done from your home if you have the proper equipment, and all of these activities can be broken up in chunks of time throughout the day.  1 hour of walking is 1 hour of walking, no matter if you do it continuously or break it up into 3 20-minute chunks!  In terms of strength training it is often easier to do this all at once because it is important to warm up properly. 

Helpful?
If you have questions about any of these aspects of fitness, please e-mail (Katherine@optimal-health-coaching.com) or call (604-353-1116) to have a session and get all your questions answered.  First session is free!
 

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