Physical activity is an important part of health and well-being. Unfortunately, many people associate it with suffering countless hours at the gym, doing exercises you don’t enjoy. Furthermore, people also mistakenly assume that physical activity is the most significant factor in weight loss, so they torture themselves in an attempt to lose weight, only to find themselves frustrated and without the desired results. Let’s address these two issues this week.
If you envision physical activity as two or three hours in the gym, sweating on a boring treadmill, you need to redefine what exercise means to you. When implementing an exercise plan, you should consider a few factors:
- Do you enjoy the activity? This is most important because people generally will not continue an activity that they don’t enjoy or see any benefit in doing.
- Does it help you get to your goals? What are your fitness goals? Are you trying to increase endurance and stamina, build muscle mass, improve your performance in sports, etc.? This should help you to determine if the exercise you’re participating in is right for you.
- Is this an activity that you can do regularly, so that you can reap the benefits long-term? If you enjoy an exercise, but you do not have the means of participating in the activity regularly then you need to find another exercise.
Sustainability will dictate long-term results and variability helps to minimize injuries. Finding a balance in your exercise routine can help reduce the risk of burnout, which is a state of mental and physical exhaustion from overtraining.
Physical exercise can help with attaining a healthy weight, but cannot do it alone. Being physically active is important for health, but no amount of exercise can overcome a terrible diet, unless you are an Olympic athlete.
Here’s an example: you may be able to burn 500 cal on the treadmill if you jog @ 5 mph for an hour or ran @ 8 mph for 30 minutes. However, you can easily consume 500 cal with two snickers bars or a pint of regular ice cream in 10 minutes. In regards to weight loss, you have essentially reversed an hour of work with 10 minutes of dietary indiscretion.
Unless you are actively working on your diet along with the exercise routine, weight loss will not be sustainable. If you are attempting to “burn off” all of the junk food with exercise, you’re likely to injure your self and get burned out.
So, if exercise is not the defining factor in weight loss, what’s the point? Exercise still has many benefits like reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving mood and sleep, stress relief, and body recomposition. If you are looking to improve your physique, then exercise will play a big role here. Increasing muscle mass requires an exercise plan targeting this goal.
Where do I begin?
- Just move more. Find ways to get more physical activity throughout the day, even if it’s not a structured plan. Try walking more and sitting less.
- Start slow to prevent injuries.
- Find activities you enjoy. Biking, hiking, swimming, martial arts, ballet or other dancing, weightlifting, various sports. You are more likely to be consistent if you participate in an activity that you find fun.
- Incorporate varied activities so you won’t sustain overuse injuries.
- Try to do some of the physical activities outdoors. You don’t need a gym membership to be active. See last weeks blog.
- CDC recommends that you aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week and at least two days of muscle strengthening activity per week.
- Don’t use exercise as a punishment for unhealthy eating or other unhealthy habits. This will result in an unhealthy mindset around physical activity.
- Eat enough to support your activities. If you chronically undereat or have a nutrient poor diet, you will not tolerate regular physical activity well.
- Physical activity is good for you, whether you want to lose weight or not. The benefits are endless.
Get out and get moving today. Your mind and body will thank you.