How much Exercise do you NEED?

How Much Are We Supposed to Exercise?

There’s no final answer!

End of Blog.

Kidding!

Although there is no right or wrong amount of exercise to do, there are many factors that play into determining how much!
Your HAPPINESS should determine how much exercise you do.  What I mean by this is some people thrive off of activity.  The more biking, walking, classes, strength sessions they get in, the happier they seem!  I am one of these people.  I find without getting moving in a day I feel lazy, sluggish, gloomy, and anxious.  Whether it’s a nice long walk, or something more structured I need to move daily so I keep a smile on my face!  Do as much activity as makes you happy J (And no, this doesn’t mean don’t exercise!).

On a similar note, does it ENERGIZE you, or TAKE your energy?  Really, we shouldn’t be so pooped after exercise that we can’t function.  A great workout will leave you full of adrenaline!  When you are starting a workout routine activity will definitely tire you out, but this should subside as you become more fit.  In the long run though figure out your amount of activity by how much energy you need for other activities throughout the day.  If you are getting in an hour at the gym everyday, but then have no energy for your physical job, play with you kids, do all your house work, then it’s probably too much!  30-45 minutes would be a great substitution!  For me, I used to exercise too much and had no energy to clean the house!  We were always left with a less than cleanly living environment…  Since I now take a few more rest days here and there I have more energy overall, and the house is clean!

Are you training for something?  If you are training for something you will obviously need more time spent exercising (for the most part..).  Training for something could be a marathon, building a more muscular body, losing weight, or maybe a Spartan race!  Following a guideline or schedule is great, but pay attention to your body.  Maybe the running schedule of 5 days a week is way too much, you may be better off with 3 days a week, and still get just as great results on race day!

You could follow general guidelines for cardio, strength, and flexibility.  The Heart, Diabetes, and Cancer Associations all have their guidelines for how much activity is good for disease prevention.  I am not going to get into those guidelines, because each person will find their balance individually.  I personally guide people that by the end of the week you should have accumulated minimum 2 days of strength training, minimum 3 days of exercise that elevates your heart rate (typical cardio, strength training, activity outdoors), and at a minimum one day a week of yoga/flexibility training.  Now remember to think outside the box.  The timing of the workouts varies, because a 10-20 minute high intensity interval session after a strength training session can count for your one day of cardio in the week, but you’ve got it done on the same day as strength training!  Remember when we exercise properly we don’t have to spend hours and days at the gym!

Do you have a weight loss goal?  If you have a weight loss goal you need to burn slightly more calories than you consume.  Remember that your basal metabolic rate (BMR, your metabolism) requires a significant amount of calories (usually 1000-2000 a day) to function, and then you also need calories to function, and exercise.  There is a great calculator here:  http://www.health-calc.com/diet/energy-expenditure-advanced.  So if you thoroughly enjoy eating a lot of calories then use the calorie expenditure equation to see how many you are burning, and eat a few hundred less!  

How much time do you realistically have to carve out on a weekly basis.  If you are a mom of 3, work full time, and have an active personal/social life, there are only so many hours in a week to get your workouts in!  This doesn’t mean you give up on your fitness, but be realistic with it!  Perhaps 4, 45 minute workouts is more realistic than 5 one hour workouts.  Maybe just 2!  I have many clients who lose weight consistently over time with 2 gym workouts a week (and as much walking as possible), while watching their food intake.  Hit the track during your kids soccer game, go for a jog when you drop them off at piano, ask your friends to come do your weight routine with you.  All aspects of life are important, AND be realistic with how much time you can/want to devote to the gym, and therefore also be realistic with your goals!

I think the bottom line is we should be trying to move as much as possible.  House cleaning, commuting by foot/bike, stretching, playing, getting together with friends to go for a walk or be active, are all great ways to MOVE more.  The more natural movement you get in the better your body will feel, the healthier you will be, and then you can spend less time in the gym, focusing on shorter workouts of higher intensity!

For me, I commute by bike as much as I can to and from work each day.  I teach one ‘muscle up’ class a week- more of an endurance class.  I also strength train between 2 and 4 days a week, and foam roll/stretch at least 10-20 minutes a day!  Works for me.

Let me know if you need help finding what works for you!

–  Katherine

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