You might be surprised at how little exercise it takes to realize significant health benefits. For example, just a daily 30 minute walk at a brisk pace can lower your risk of stroke and heart attack by 30 percent. Multiple research studies link regular exercise with lowering risk for everything from dementia to diabetes. We know that a little physical activity is better than none at all, but how much exercise do we really need?
The answer depends a lot on your goals, your current health status, and how fit you are. Wellintune provides “official” recommendations for physical activity, but ultimately an effective exercise plan must be personalized to your needs and preferences.
Want to lose weight and keep it off? The National Weight Control Registry studies what they call “successful losers”. These “successful losers” are individuals who have lost at least 30pounds and kept it off for more than a year. For this group, a high level of physical activity (90% exercise an average of 60 minutes a day) was cited as a critical factor in their success at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. In other words, a 30 minute daily walk may not be an effective exercise plan if your goal is weight loss.
Because we are card carrying members of leading fitness organizations like the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at AttuneLife, we feel compelled to share the ACSM recommendations for physical activity for healthy adults. However, we do so with the caveats that you must personalize your plan and adjust accordingly based on whether or not you are seeing the results you want to see and that you are avoiding injuries. We are also big fans of tracking energy expended for an activity as an effective way to achieve most desired health and fitness outcomes.
The ACSM basically recommends that most adults engage in either: moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week; vigorous intensity cardio exercise training for at least 75 minutes a week; or, a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise to achieve a total energy expenditure of 1000 kcal per week. Add resistance training 2- 3 days a week, along with a series of flexibility exercises for each major muscle group and you are well on your way to designing a comprehensive exercise program.
If you are new to exercise, odds are this may sound a bit overwhelming to you. At Attune, we try and simplify all of this by calculating your energy expenditure for literally hundreds of physical activities. We suggest that you incorporate a variety of activities into your personal exercise plan, but the main principles are to start slow, stay injury-free and try to pick activities that you enjoy.
What tools and skills do you need to achieve your activity goals?
Exercise intensity is an often-overlooked concept when designing an exercise program. Exercise intensity becomes even more important when one of your health goals is weight loss. For example, while pedometers are popular and effective for promoting physical activity, they typically provide an inexact index of the exercise intensity or the calories burned. Many people will walk for the recommended 60minutes a day, but at a leisurely pace, and wonder why they aren’t seeing the results they want.
To gauge whether you are exercising hard enough, do the“talk test”. Moderate intensity means working hard enough to raise your heartrate, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is another way to track exercise intensity.
If you are trying a new activity, it is important to get feedback. Our suggestions are that you connect with a certified fitness professional, attend a class, or join a social group organized around that activity. Learning from others is an important tool for improving your exercise habits and getting the desired results.
Finally, take the time to practice the skills of injury-avoidance. This means taking time to effectively warm up and cool down during your workouts. Listening to your body, calculating a gradual progression for your exercise plan that looks at frequency, intensity and duration, and acquiring the proper training technique will go a long way in keeping you injury free.
How do you enlist the support of others?
We have mentioned the importance of learning from others when engaging in a new activity. When it comes to sticking with an exercise program, getting support and information from others is key. Another strategy is to find an exercise partner. When we commit to someone else that we will run, attend a Spin class, or go for a hike,we are much more likely to follow through.
How do you create an environment that supports physical activity?
First and foremost, design an exercise plan that is convenient. If your plan includes long travel times, or lengthy preparations, you are less likely to exercise on a regular basis. If your plan involves going to a fitness club, find one that is close to either your home or workplace. If your plan is to work out at home, make the space a place that you want to be.
Whatever your exercise plan, try to incorporate some outdoor activity. Nothing beats a walk or hike through nature to uplift your spirit.
Bottom Line: Being physically active is an important part of the Wellintune lifestyle.
Follow the Wellintune Action Plan:
- Use the Wellintune Calorie Balance Plan and see if you are at a healthy weight. If not, make weight loss one of your fitness goals. If you are already at an ideal weight, design an exercise program that lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke, improves your strength or flexibility, or helps you manage stress.
- Regardless of your fitness goal, try to choose activities that are convenient and you enjoy. If you are trying something new for the firsttime, like weight lifting, it might be helpful to touch base with a trained fitness professional so that you develop the proper technique.
- At Wellintune, we know one of the top reasons people drop out of a new exercise program is starting at a level that is too hard, resulting in either injuries or frustration. Make sure you are not doing too much, too soon.
- Block off time to exercise into your busy schedule ahead of time. While it really does not matter what time of day you exercise, research finds that individuals who exercise in the morning have higher compliance rates.
- Keep track of your progress using the Wellintune Activity Tracker
- Set weekly and monthly fitness goals. Figure out small rewards,like a new CD or workout outfit, to treat yourself when you meet them.