First of all, a healthy lifestyle is not about being perfect, even when we make it seem that way. It's really just a journey of continually improving, knowing that we will never be perfect. As far as exercise, unless you are training for a sport, triatholon, or race, exercising endless hours a week is just not necessary. Training long can leave your efforts fruitless and make you more susceptible to injury. When you repeat the same activity for long periods of time there is more of a chance of over-working it and straining something. It's time to change our mindsets and train smart, not long.
I hear all the time from new moms about how they're trying to lose baby weight by increasing their walking time or distance and eating less food. Walking is such a great place to start, I don't want to discourage activity, but let's face it, it's not going to get you a flat tummy and toned arms. And by the way, who even wants to spend 1.5 hours exercising 6 days a week just to try and reach your goals? Not me. Sure, during the warm months (there are so few here) I will spend hours outside doing activities but that's just pure fun. If I want to reach a goal then I am going to exercise less and make it effective. How do we do that? I'd like to go over a few ideas that you can incorporate today.
1. 30 Minutes- I average a 30 minute workout. That's per day. I'm not getting a babysitter and working out 2 ½ hours at a gym, then showering, and picking up my kids. That's not realistic! How would I get anything done in the day? I exercise 20-40 minutes about 5 days a week. There's 168 hours in a week. So I'm only taking roughly 2 ½ hours a week to workout. That's minimal. It's do-able. Even if you work a 60 hour work week you're still left with over 100 hours (56 technically sleeping hours if you sleep 8 hours a night) but 2 ½ or even 2 hours a week should be reasonable.
2. What you do with that 30 minutes of time is crucial. We all know that you should rotate weights days with cardio. There's a reason for that. They do different things in your body. Cardio (aerobic) means with oxygen. It works your lungs, heart, and circulatory system. Oxygen lives in every cell of your body, we need it to live. Cardio helps transport more of it throughout your body. It helps burn fat and burns the most calories during your workout. So if you have high blood pressure, struggle with your lungs, and want a stronger heart, then cardio is your friend (it's everybody's friend). But in order to improve all those things you must push harder during your workouts. Walking just doesn't cut it after a short time. Your heart won't get stronger if you walk at the same pace continually. 30 minutes of exercise means you need to be all in and out of breath by the end. That's a good thing! It means you are making strides. So instead of walking, get on an eliptical, get a cardio-based DVD, run the stairs in your house, ride a bike, swim, etc. Just give it your all and you'll succeed.
3. Weights are the other side of your workout. Lifting weights is anaerobic, which means without oxygen. It means that your body spares the oxygen to do the "heavy lifting." It burns more calories after the workout, which means a faster metabolism. Woot woot! But weights do so much more than just burn more calories. It builds muscle which makes your heart stronger, tightens your skin, shapes your body, protects your joints and bones, and makes cardio safer to do.
When someone breaks their arm and it is in a cast for months, muscle atrophy (loss) is unavoidable. What happens when that cast comes off? Rebuilding muscle is important to keep from further injury and to be able to handle everyday tasks. It is so foundational to our bodies. Take a look at babies, what are the first things they do? Lift the head, roll over, plank, climb, squat, stretch, etc. They are building muscle! It's foundational for other movements. We must not take that for granted. When trying to get in shape we don't want to go out and start jogging (sorry couch to 5k), we need to start with these things of building muscle and doing functional exercises.
What does this look like in a 30 minute workout? It's lifting heavier weights, making your muscles shake and fatigue after 10 reps, and utilizing large muscle groups like your legs. It's planking till you literally fall on the floor and doing push-ups even if you hate them. It's also stretching well. A flexible muscle gives your body more strength potential.
4. I do want to address how many days a week you exercise. I know I said that I workout 5 days a week but this is another area where perfection is the enemy. IF you don't have 5 days a week to exercise then don't stress!!!! Even if you can commit to 2 days a week then do it. Some will just not even try because they think they have to live up to a certain standard. That is perfection trying to rob your efforts. I will say it again, a healthy lifestyle is a journey; that means you will have stages of life. To make something a habit, you must be consistent. 2 days a week of exercising will still benefit the body in so many ways, rather than not doing it at all. And once it becomes habitual, you may be able to fit it in other days a week because those 2 days a week increased your energy enough to make it through your workday plus a 20 minute workout. It really is worth it because exercise does give you more energy.
5. Intervals. Take advantage of interval training with short workouts. This is bang for your "buck" right here. It is proven (I can give info) to burn more fat and calories in a 20 minute HIT (high intensity training) workout than a 60 minute steady state workout. An example is doing 30 seconds to a minute of an exercise that raises your heart rate so high you can't continue but brings it back down another 30 seconds to a minute of rest and repeating the routine. It's short bursts of level 10 intensity that utilizes aerobic and anaerobic activity. 2 for 1 and I am all for that!
Therefore, this is not an extension of April Fools, this is reality. I am telling you to exercise LESS but in order to do that you must increase your intensity. It's proven and I am just one living testimonial. I can tell you that I am in better shape and am smaller than I was as a teenager when I exercised longer than I do now. I train smart and eat lean.