I am often asked, “How much exercise is enough?” That is a great question and I want to answer it for you. Both how much and what type of exercises are important to understand.
When it comes to exercise, anything is better than nothing. If you are just starting out, be sure to get clearance from your physician and start slow. Do not be a weekend warrior. Regular walking, hiking, and cycling are a great way to start. And remember, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. If you want to improve your overall health and control your weight, you must eat healthy, exercise, get adequate sleep, and manage your stress.
Many people are under the impression that a lean, fit body comes from either lucky genes or following a very strenuous and time consuming regimen of exercise. That is just not true.
For health purposes, there are three types of exercises that should be a part of your routine: slow cardio, resistance (strength) training, and high intensity interval training. The combination is key. This may sound complicated but it really isn’t. Let me break it down for you. (Note: This is assuming you have no physical limitations. The plan can be adapted for those who do.)
Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness. – Lord Edward Stanley, Three time United Kingdom Prime Minister (1799-1869)
Slow cardio greatly enhances your ability to metabolize fat both during exercise and at rest. In addition, brief, intense strength training and sprint, or high intensity, sessions elevate body temperature and stimulate an increase in your metabolic rate during the workout and for several hours afterwards.
Slow cardio training is the foundation of any exercise program and should be done a total of 2 to 5 hours per week over several sessions. This includes aerobic activities such as walking and/or running, hiking, cycling, and swimming. If you are adventurous, kayaking, paddleboarding, and other outdoor activities are also a great option. This can also be accomplished through taking certain classes offered at a fitness center. Find something you enjoy. The intensity is important. Slow cardio should raise your heart rate, but not more than 75% of your maximum which is 180 minus your age. (Example: If you are 50 years old, 75% of your maximum heart rate is 130.)
The second type of exercise that is important is resistance or strength training. Don’t miss this important aspect of your healthy lifestyle program. As you age, it becomes even more important to maintain strength and to keep your bones and tendons strong and healthy. You can certainly join a fitness center, but that is not a necessity. The functional resistance exercises (those that use multiple muscle groups) you need can all be done at home. As a matter of fact, little or no equipment is needed, you can simply use your bodyweight as resistance. The four essential exercises are pushups, pullups, squats and planks. (See how simple that is.) If you prefer to work out with equipment, there are numerous weight machines that replicate these movements. Strength training should be done two times per week for 10 to 30 minutes. Click on the link to download a chart describing the recommended exercises. Resistance training is also an excellent catalyst to weight loss.
High Intensity Interval Training (Sprints)
I know you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, I can’t do that like I used to do in high school.” As you age, and depending on your fitness level, this may need some adapting; however, it is an important part of your overall fitness program.
After a 10 to 15 minute warmup, high intensity interval training consists of an all out effort of running, cycling, or swimming for durations of 15 to 20 seconds at a time with full recovery in between. Do this for a total of about 10 to 15 minutes in duration every 7 to 10 days. That’s it. Of course use common sense, if you question whether you are healthy enough for a brief high intensity workout, consult your physician and be sensible. I typically do my high intensity work on a stationary bicycle. It doesn’t take long and the results are well worth the effort for weight loss and general health purposes.
So that’s it. Stay with this plan and you’ll see excellent results.