Time To Talk About Exercise


THESE “lessons” have been mostly about nutrition but it’s finally time to talk about exercise. This is difficult in the written word, pictures and video work so much better, but I’m going to try my best. This week we’ll discuss exercise from a weekly routine kind of perspective. Next week we’ll talk more about what goes into a single workout.

Note: what I’m suggesting here is kind of an effective minimum. You could absolutely do more; this would just be a sensible place to start if you actually want to see some progress. Bear in mind there is also an upper limit on how much exercise we can recover from and more is not always better or healthier.

How much cardio?

One to two medium to high intensity cardio sessions per week. Run, swim, cycle, box, dance, climb. Can you do more? Sure. Do you need to? Maybe, it depends on your level and goals. Do you HAVE to do more? Nah!

Remember “cardio” is short for cardiovascular endurance training which is improving the health and fitness of your heart and lungs. Challenge your heart and lungs for 40-60 minutes 1-2 times a week as part of keeping them healthy. How challenging? In simple terms, push yourself to get moderately to severely out of breath multiple times during the training session. If the type of cardio you’re taking part in allows for tracking progress, do that. Take notes, check them next time, try to do a tiny bit better.

How much strength training?

Two to three strength training sessions per week. 40-60 minutes will be enough. Push, pull, squat, hinge, lunge and carry. Just like cardio: can you do more? Yes. Do you have to? No. But should you do at least this? Yes.

Strength training, by definition, is about actively trying to be stronger, not going through the same motions every time you go into the gym using the same amount of weight for weeks at a time. Take notes, check notes next time, try to do SOMETHING stronger. More reps, an extra set, more weight if the number of reps is getting unwieldy, less rest, improved range of motion, better technique. You can’t just hope for strength to come to you, most of us aren’t that lucky, you’ve got to go after it. More on the contents of an individual workout next week.

Why is strength training so important?

Long term, the stronger you can get and the longer you can stay strong the healthier and more independent you are likely to stay as you age. I don’t mean lifting very, VERY heavy weights where a person is risking their health if it goes wrong, I just mean reasonably strong, able to deal easily with day-to-day life strong. Carrying groceries, getting up and down from a chair without help, climbing stairs or hilly walkways, catching ourselves if we lose our balance… These are all acts of reasonable strength.

Short term, if you want your body to look and feel “toned” or firm then you want muscle. Fat isn’t firm and cannot look “toned”. I don’t mean being a massive bodybuilder, just nice normal shape by most people’s definition. And in simple terms your body will grow some muscle when it’s current muscle is regularly challenged and having a bit more would be useful. Cardio doesn’t do this, it generally doesn’t create enough pressure to encourage muscle growth. That’s why, long and short term, strength training is so important.

Go for a walk!

“Cardio” (see above) is not any more effective for fat loss than any other kind of exercise or activity, as whether or not you lose fat is determined by whether or not you’re burning more calories than you consume and ANY activity can help with this. So don’t add more and more high intensity exercise that’s going to pound more and more fatigue into your body.

Go for a walk most days as part of your exercise schedule. Low impact, low intensity, won’t mess with your appetite much, easy to recover from and will help burn a few extra calories to aid with fat loss. Most major fat loss changes will come from nutrition changes anyway.