Getting regular exercise through a variety of physical activities is a must for health and well-being. It’s been scientifically proven not only to help you become stronger, more fit and to squeeze into those jeans, but it can reduce the risk of depression and improve overall mental health, lessen the risk of chronic disease, prevent cognitive decline, improve memory and even help lengthen your life.
Of course, by keeping fit, you may not only enjoy a longer life, but a higher quality one, with the ability to continue normal everyday tasks and favourite activities well into old age.
This month we provide practical tips that will help get you moving more on a daily basis in a way that’s effective and achievable, even if your busy schedule is jam-packed.
The Amount of Exercise to Aim For
Many people wonder how much exercise is really needed to get into or maintain optimal health and fitness – and, is it possible to go overboard? How much is too much? The general consensus among experts, including the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, advises a minimum of 150 minutes per week, which works out to only about 22 minutes per day. While some are under the impression that more is always better, overtraining, especially at high intensity like HIIT or crossfit, can actually be harmful to health. It can lead to injuries, hormonal imbalances and muscle breakdown – the opposite of what you want to achieve.
A study presented at the 2018 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting by associate professor Jinger Gottschall, along with other recent research, has indicated that 30 to 40 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) each week is optimal, and that more than 50 minutes a week can be detrimental. Gottschall noted that there is an urgent need for specific HIIT guidelines given the extreme intensity involved. It’s also been shown that it’s best to avoid consecutive days of either high intensity or weight training workouts.
HIIT: The Best Bang for Your Buck
It should be good news for the many busy people short on time that one of the best workouts for getting the biggest bang for your buck in terms for both time and energy may be HIIT. It’s quality not quantity that counts, as many studies have shown. This exercise is characterised by intense but short bursts of activity with either total rest or active recovery such as lower intense exercise (i.e. walking), in between. Both cardio and strength routines qualify provided they get your heart pumping. An effective workout can be accomplished in as little as 20 minutes, with no equipment necessary at all.
Why? Experts say it’s because of the afterburn effect, officially known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC. In simple terms that means that following high intensity training, you’ll continue to burn extra energy for hours afterwards.
Don’t Forget Recovery
The harder you work out, the more important it is to recover. Electrolytes are not only important for staying hydrated, keeping fluids in the body balanced while carrying electrical charges that are tasked with stimulating the muscles and nerves will aid in the recovery process.
You’ll get the most out of your workouts while decreasing the chances of injury by paying attention to proper recovery, such as:
- Cooling down and stretching after every workout
- Alternating high intensity days with low intensity days
- Consuming a meal that provides plenty of protein post-workout to aid recovery
- Eating plenty of berries and beetroot in your regular diet which speeds muscle recovery by improving blood flow.
Increasing Incidental Physical Activity Throughout the Day
In addition to regular HIIT and other workouts, increasing incidental physical activity throughout the day is a great way to raise your metabolism, keeping that “fire” burning so to speak which means burning more calories without even having to think about. It refers to all those small amounts of unplanned activities, from climbing stairs to walking to the market instead of getting behind the wheel.
Medical researchers have warned us for years that too much sitting is hazardous to our health. Even working out regularly outside of the office may not compensate for all that prolonged sitting. With so many of us relegated to working at a desk all day, these tips can help you increase your daily incidental activity while you’re on the job:
Skip the lift and use the stairs instead
Aim get up from your desk every hour to take a walking break for a few minutes to activate muscles and promote blood flow. If necessary, set a timer so you don’t forget.
While on phone calls, walk around your office
Suggest walking meetings, discussing business as you stroll the halls or outside the building
Take advantage of your lunch hour to use half for eating and the other half for physical activity like going for a walk in the fresh air
Get active while you work – consider a standup desk, sitting on an exercise ball, or a mini under-desk exercise bike.