Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a few twenty-somethings and young ‘uns in their late teens about their exercise programs and routines.
Dude, they’ve like totally been telling me stories of “hittin’ the gym” EVERY day for 1.5 – 2 hours of “lifting”, as well as taking umpteen exercise classes, working with a trainer, and then even having time to have a tan sprayed on or baked on! Cracks me up!
Ahh, I remember those days… plenty of time to exercise… when my only responsibilities were school and a part-time job! Nobody else to cook for… or clean up after! Eat whatever you want… it doesn’t really show up, plus, you can just go “work it off”! Silly. A good chunk of every day was spent in the gym. A hefty chunk, actually.
Well, two things have changed dramatically since those days.
First, I don’t have 2 hours per day for exercise on a daily basis anymore! Let me re-phrase ~ I choose not to spend 2 hours exercising in a gym (or even 1 and ½)! I have work to do, businesses to run, research to be done, children to teach, a house to clean, people to feed, weeds to pull… puh-lease. Dude.
Thankfully, the second major change since those gym-rat days is that science has backed me up! We don’t need to exercise that much to get great results. In fact, too much “lifting” and “chronic cardio” can work against us in the long run.
Twenty-somethings and teens seriously do not want to talk to me about the long run, I’ve discovered! It’s OK. We’ve all been there. And, there’s no arguing that these youngsters are lookin’ good! (Functionin’ good might be another story… for another day!)
I’m, like, totally picking on the youngsters here… somewhat unfairly. It goes both ways – some of the younger crowd has got it right, and much of the ‘older’ crowd is wasting time in the gym. This, I know. It was just those recent conversations with a few dedicated (obsessed) gym rats that got me thinking.
For those of us with a bit more on our plate, and a bit less time available, we need to get down to the nitty gritty of exercise. How can we simplify this process, while at the same time, glean the countless benefits that regular exercise has to offer with less wasted time?
Here are 9 Tips to Keep You Fit… With LESS Time in the Gym:
1. The bare-bones bottom line Here’s what leading authorities in the wellness field recommend as an overall healthy approach to exercise and the minimum you need to stay healthy:
Daily movement in the form of low-level aerobic activity for approximately 30 minutes, give or take. This means walking, hiking, easy cycling, swimming, or very easy jogging for a grand total around 2 and ½ hours per week. More is fine.
Also, on a daily basis, do functional stretching, use a foam roller or exercise ball, and move your body through full ranges of motion… especially your spinal area. It’s great for your brain function, minimizes pain, and makes “happy” hormones.
Muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week. Three times is fine. More on this in #3 & #4.
Add “bursts”, like sprinting, once per week. Twice is better, but we’re talking bare-bones minimum here. More on this in #2.
Play! Add something else, in the form of a sport or other movement that you enjoy.
2. Bursts are best. In addition to those critical low-level aerobic activities that should form the foundation of your exercise and movement habits for the rest of your life, in some of your other exercise sessions, rev up the intensity with high-intensity bursts of more challenging &/or higher-speed activity.
Alternate a few seconds (up to a minute or so) of higher intensity, followed by a short recovery time. Rinse and repeat. You’ll jump-start your metabolism and maximize your fat burning potential for hours. Plus, you’ll save a bunch of time in your work outs. Now, instead of a cardio work out taking 30 minutes, for example, you can do a burst work out in 10 minutes and reap major benefits.
Remember, the 3 major keys to exercise success are:
3. Strong like bull. OK, I admit it, we’re not in the same ballpark as those aforementioned young ‘uns. (That’s not all bad, by the way!) A natural part of aging… maturing… is that we lose muscle mass, potentially making us weaker, more prone to injury, and making it more challenging to burn fat. Two or three 15-30-minute sessions per week using free weights or resistance bands or other ‘weighted’ tools, like kettlebells and medicine balls, will restore muscle very quickly and keep our bones protected and strong.
In fact, resistance training is one of the most important things we can do to increase the integrity of our bones, as well as to help us burn fat efficiently. If you don’t have any type of weights or resistance equipment, many body weight exercises will work very well, too. No need for hours and hours in the gym.
Along the same line…
4. Full body work outs. Especially if time and efficiency of your work out sessions is a concern, then give full body work outs a try. This simply means that you’ll do both upper and lower body exercises in the same session as opposed to splitting them up into different days.
This is far more efficient if you do “functional” exercises and multi-joint exercises as the foundation of your work out: moves like (any variation of) squats, lunges, dead lifts, push-ups, pull-ups, rowing, dips, overhead press and so on. One simple approach is to alternate a lower body move with an upper, with little rest in between. No slacking off. You’re busy, remember?
You can even throw in “power moves” like kicks, jumps, or jump roping to maximize your efforts and time.
Use the same approach to working your abs (core) – think of moving and challenging your entire core and its full range of motion, not just little isolated abs moves. Most abs/core moves that incorporate moving your legs, like mountain climbers, hanging leg raises, kicks, pike ball tucks, and so on, are great for this. Even though they don’t move your core through a full range of motion, all variations of plank pose are excellent choices for your core strength and stability, too.
5. Become a sneaky mover. Make it a priority to fit more movement into your day… even when it’s not your “official work out time”. Take a 10 or 15 minute break to go walk the dog, or run around with your kids, or do some squats and wall push-ups at work. Stand on one leg or do some side bends while chatting on the phone. You get the idea. Sneak in activity whenever you can. Move outside of your work out… daily. Sit less, move more.
Speaking of fitting in movement, one of my favorite recommendations to make to those who tell me they have NO time to exercise at all, but have time to watch T.V. at night, is to do a “commercials work out”. Get up off your hind-quarters for those 3-5 minutes and do a series of full body moves. For example, do alternating cycles of body weight moves like squats, push-ups, lunges, and dips. Once your show resumes, you can park it again, if you feel so inclined. Then get up and do some more during the next commercial break.
6. Beyond weights and cardio. Each day, take just a few minutes to move your spine and the rest of you through a wide variety of motions that you may not normally encounter in your daily routine. Stretch, bend, reach, twist… push your body beyond its tight, stressed out comfort zone!
Take a beginner yoga class, or go get yourself a DVD to try on your own. Your basic cardio and resistance training don’t touch this area of flexibility, balance, range of motion, and proprioception in the same way. Make the time for this – you’ll feel a dramatic difference after you give it a consistent effort for several days.
7. Mix it up. Remember the first key to exercise success: Variety! Why would we ever think that doing the same exercise program, over and over, for months at a time would keep us stimulated physically and mentally! If you do the same thing all the time, your body adapts and you stop making progress. Shake things up!
If your core routine stays the same, like daily walking and weekend hikes and weight training twice a week, for example, then add some classes or lessons from time to time, or hire a trainer for awhile to challenge you, or register for an upcoming event or race to change your focus and motivation, or exercise in different locations, or get some DVDs or go online for new ideas.
Ultimately, keeping it fun will keep you IN it for the long run. And that’s the third key to success: Consistency!
8. No pain, no gain? No way. If you have chronic aches, stiffness and low-grade pain (and have ruled out a serious underlying health condition), they may very well subside once you begin moving daily… especially once you begin daily spinal hygiene exercises.
But, if you have a marked increase in pain or discomfort during your exercise, or very shortly afterward, get some help. I’d have a trusted, knowledgeable, experienced person check your technique, equipment, gait, grip, stance, etc. Something’s not right if exercising causes real pain. (I’m not talkin’ about wussy, dramatic “pain” to get you out of working harder here!)
I don’t recommend masking the pain with meds as a successful long-term strategy, by the way. Get with the right experts who can help identify the root of the problem and fix it, and then do what they recommend to maintain “the fix”. I’m a bit partial to Doctors of Chiropractic, personally! But there are other professionals in natural & functional healthcare who can offer fabulous insight as well. Once you find your go-to-expert, don’t rely on them to do all the fixin’… you’ve got to do your part, as well!
9. Make a lifetime commitment. We’re not playing around here. We’re grown-ups now. Exercise and movement should not just be part of our life for superficial and vanity reasons alone. We’re not just doing this to attract attention from others. Sure, it’s nice to look good and feel confident about the way you look. But, there’s far more to it than that.
This is about our health, our vitality, our cellular function, and minimizing our risk factors for ALL chronic illness (like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neuro-degenerative conditions, arthritis, obesity, depression & anxiety, reproductive & sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, digestive disorders, and on and on).
It’s about our ability to fully LIVE and experience our lives for as long as possible.
Science has made it abundantly clear: regular exercise, movement, and motion are essential for optimal cellular function. Optimal cellular function means optimal genetic expression and optimal health.
This isn’t all about weight loss, beach bodies, and ripped abs. We’ll save that for those youngsters!
Daily movement needs to be prioritized. Make the time. Even if it’s 5 or 10 minutes. You can crank out a seriously effective “turbo” exercise session in this amount of time. Really! (Especially if you follow tips #2 and #4)
More importantly, it’s about the mentality you adopt… your unwavering commitment to MOVE everyday… for your current and future health.
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a leading expert in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 18 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
For more information about working privately with Dr. Colleen and Dr. Marc in an Integrative Health Recovery Program for any number of metabolic and health issues, such as thyroid imbalance, weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivity & gut permeability, cellular detoxification, and more, please contact Dr. Colleen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distance programs are available.