It is the number one thing you can do to help pretty much all your major body systems.
But what type, when, how much, etc can mean that many people don’t get the required amount.
They might be held back by thoughts such as…
“Well if I can’t do a 45 minute walk then it is not enough” or
“I’m not going to the gym then what I’m doing at home doesn’t count therefore I won’t do it” or
“I’m only doing 4000 steps a day when I am supposed to be doing 10000!”.
When It comes to exercise, people often struggle with just getting started. It may take several half-hearted attempts before one is doing anything consistently.
On the flip side many people get caught in the cycle of doing too much which can lead to overuse injury and excess wear and tear.
So, that begs the question – “How much do you need to exercise?”
What Happens with Too Much Exercise?
Over exercising can completely reverse the original aims of exercise such as optimal weight management and gaining health benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness, stress reductions and improvements in our sleep cycles to name a few.
When we do too much exercise we stimulate our stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which at certain levels actually make you hold onto fat, can increase inflammation in your system making you sore, worn out and fatigued along with reducing your muscle bulk.
Recommended Exercise Guidelines for Adults
The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults 18-64 years proposes an accumulation of 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise over the week preferably on most days.
This equates to 5 sessions per week of 30 – 60 minutes brisk walk or an accumulation over a day, or 75 – 150 minutes of vigorous exercise for e.g. running or cycling at higher intensities for 25 minutes every other day.
As well as 2 sessions of strength/resistance training for e.g. a 20 – 30 minute weights program at home or a RedoHealth class which includes strength work.
But the key is, the best exercise is the exercise that gets done.
There is a lot of science around what, why, how, how long etc but really it is about being active everyday for part of your day and ensuring there is some kind of resistance work in there as well.
This could be cleaning the house, doing a bit of gardening, walking the shopping home from the shops if this is available to you.
Exercise to Increase Strength
I’ve just finished reading an article on how much it takes to increase your biceps strength. A recent study showed that 30 repetitions over 5 days, i.e. 6 reps once a day increases bicep strength greater than doing those 30 repetitions in one day i.e. 6 reps x 5 sets in one day.
This disrupts the science from years ago that said you need volume to create strength. That is 3-4 sets of 6 – 8 reps at a challenging weight for you 2-3 times a week. Of course this still works with no doubt, good gains but when you look at doing something everyday for a small amount of time, gains are possible.
Think about it… all you need is a set of dumbbells by your computer, lift them 6 times in your day and your biceps are getting stronger!
Take Exercise Regularly, Not Seriously
Some of you may know that my husband has a brain injury secondary to brain cancer. Now he has fallen a few times and I have been able single handed to get him back up again!
I go to the gym once a week for 40 minutes and always do some kind of leg strengthening like a deadlift or squat or lunge with some weights. If I had not been doing that, I don’t think I would have been able to do what I did or what I do on a daily basis to help him.
SO not only do I get the health benefits of regular exercise, I also reduce my risk of injury.
Injuries and Exercise
Sometimes we exercise because we want to lose weight or as a form of stress relief and we can sometimes push ourselves more than we need to.
Sure if you are training for an event of some kind, you have to challenge yourself.
But let’s say you are in your 40’s or 50’s and your body has changed a bit including your hormone profile and you have decided that you need to exercise at a challenging level to lose weight and build muscle after you have been out of regular exercise for a while.
Coming back to what I mentioned earlier, sometimes the weight we have put on or the muscle mass we have lost is because of hormonal changes which includes our stress hormones Cortisol and Adrenaline.
If you exercise at too strong a level then your body can backfire.
Yes you might have early gains but if you are feeling abnormal fatigue from the exercise you are doing particularly if you start to feel yourself plateau in terms of weight or fitness levels then you may be doing yourself a disservice.
Listening to your body is key.
It is important to challenge your body, but too much (and too fast) and cortisol rises which makes you hang onto fat and you start to lose muscle mass.
Yes! You read that correctly, exercise too much and you can start to lose muscle mass and put on weight.
If you are not sure about what is the best exercise level for you then you can consult any one of us at RedoHealth or Exercise Physiologists are also great to seek help from.
Diet and Exercise
Lastly, remember your diet plays a key role as well.
You want to be able to fuel your body for the exercise you are going to do!
In fact, if you ask any medical professional what is the most important thing when it comes to your health – “Is it the amount you move or is it what you put in your mouth?”
They will answer with the latter.
They go hand in hand of course but if you are not looking at what you are putting in your mouth then all the exercise in the world is not going to do the things that you want it to.
Exercise certainly helps with body composition and lean muscle mass helps regulate your metabolism but what you put in affects us in so many ways including the health of our microbiome which is a major dictator of how we look and feel.
When it comes to what to eat, Michael Pollan, American Journalist and Author of books such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food recommends that we “eat whole foods, mostly plants and not too much”
Australian Physical Activity and Exercise Guidelines
Greater effects by performing a small number of eccentric contractions daily than a larger number of them once a week. Riku Yoshida, Shigeru Sato, Kazuki Kasahara, Yuta Murakami, Fu Murakoshi, Kodai Aizawa, Ryoma Koizumi, Kazunori Nosaka, Masatoshi Nakamura. First published: 31 July 2022
Cooked – A Natural History of Transformation. Michael Pollan 2013, Penguin Press