How much Exercise is enough?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) it is advised that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week, train each muscle group 2 to 3 days a week, do 2 to 3 days per week of flexibility exercise and finally another 2 or 3 days per week of functional or neuromotor exercise.
A literal interpretation of this would amount to 9 days a week alongside a further 2.5 hours of cardio! Obviously as most of us are employed and in the bid to win the employee of the month wellness contest, training for 6 hours per day would get most of us fired…
As a general tip (unless we are training for a specific sports event), we should train for enjoyment purposes which will naturally enrich our health as a by-product. In practice, I find that people who train solely to maintain weight or because their doctor told them to, end up becoming bored and non compliant.
Although the guidelines of the ACSM are more or less accurate, we can definitely draw up our own little “cheat sheets” when it comes to exercise. The most honest way of doing this is to consider that the 4 types of exercise suggested (cardio, strength, flexibility and functional) are not mutually exclusive and do not need to be done independently of each other. Another way of looking at this is like eating yoghurt and muesli; whether your pour your yoghurt on top of your muesli or blend it into a smoothie, it’s still the same moosh inside your guts…
If we were to exchange the word “exercise” for “movement”, and try and free up around an hour per day to do this, the consumption of the ACSM’s guidelines seem a little more surmountable. In these 6ish hours per week, if we were to sprinkle a nice spread of cardio, strength, flexibility and functional into the mix, then surely the target becomes pretty easy to hit?
Taking this a step further and doing functional movements (balance), with good form, using free weights through a good range of motion, we have pretty much killed 3 birds with one stone! All we need to do is mop up the balance with a bit or cardio.
The most easily digestible recipe for the implementation of an exercise program is to book your exercise time slots into your diary, the same way that you would book a meeting. The time of day is up to you but I would suggest booking time out and getting away from your home or office and turning your phone off in order to limit distraction.
Once this step has been done, it is relatively easy to populate your program with movement! Make sure that that around 50% of the movement is cardiovascular and the other 50% is a nice mix of strength, flexibility and function.
As we are all human and the dreaded “L” word gets in the way (Life), there are inevitably going to be weeks where we are unable to fit in our quota of sessions. My advice here is to make sure that you do not go more than 2 to 3 days without doing something; even if it just recreational (health depending). Once you allowed yourself to slip for more than 3 days, the pattern of inactivity tends to set in and we are more likely to be forgiving on ourselves to take another day off which will eventually become a week, which will eventually become a habit…
Obviously on the flip side of this is the potential of getting TOO MUCH exercise. If the body is getting insufficient rest or is being broken down faster than it is being built, it will begin to degrade. The quickest tester here is your health; if you are getting sick more than 2 to 3 times per year you are either overcooking the training or not getting to bed on time.