We all know that regular exercise is a vital component of a healthy life. But did you know that some types of exercise will actually benefit your body more than others? And did you know that over-exercising can actually cause you to not lose weight? There is much more to exercise than simply jumping on a treadmill and attempting to burn off some calories. First let's talk about some of the benefits of exercise and then we will dispel some myths surrounding it.
There are two main types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise is exercise that stimulates the cardiovascular system. This type of exercise is good for reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Aerobic exercise can improve lung function, increase mental clarity, and help with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Examples are: walking, biking, running, swimming, rowing, climbing stairs, and jumping rope.
Anaerobic exercise involves shorter, faster bursts of energy that do not require the amount of oxygen needed for aerobic exercise. This type of exercise is more intense, and it helps to build and tone muscle, as well as being very beneficial for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training), lifting weights, resistance bands, and calisthenics like push-ups, jump squats, and pull-ups are all types of anaerobic exercise. Both types of exercise are great for boosting mood, strengthening endurance, and keeping circadian rhythm balanced.
So what type and how much exercise is right for you, and when should you exercise? The answer to these questions can vary with each individual, but as a general rule of thumb, plan to exercise four to five times a week. Studies show that exercise does not need to go on for hours to be beneficial. In fact, exercising for over an hour can actually put undue stress on the body, raise cortisol, and prevent weight loss. Exercising for 15-30 minutes is ideal. Time of day is also something to consider when exercising. Exercising in the morning or afternoon helps with melatonin production later in the evening, which means it can help you to get to sleep quicker and sleep deeper. Exercising within an hour of waking helps to stabilize circadian rhythm, which benefits your overall health immensely. If you can exercise outside while soaking up the early morning sunlight: even better!
Studies also show that a short intense workout, like HIIT, will set the body up to burn off more calories later in the day vs doing a longer cardio workout, like the elliptical machine. This is great news for busy moms or those who don't love working out. What's even better about HIIT workouts is that you can do them in 15-30 minutes from the comfort of your own home, because many free HIIT workouts are available on platforms like YouTube and Amazon Prime. These workouts tend to combine cardio activity as well, leading to a power-packed workout that encompasses both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
If you are just starting off on your exercise journey, or haven't worked out in a long time, it's important to start slow and ease your way into it. Pay attention to your body. Choose workouts that are challenging but don't overexert yourself. Drink plenty of water and dial down the intensity whenever necessary. You may even just want to start out with brisk walking, or light weights, anything to get your body moving and start training your lungs and muscles to become stronger. Any type of movement added in to a normally sedentary lifestyle will drastically lower your risk for chronic health issues and will start to get your health moving in a positive direction. Depending on your age and health status, it can be beneficial to take a PAR-Q evaluation before beginning an exercise routine. Regardless of where you are at in your exercise journey, warm-up before exercising and stretch/cool down afterwards.
If you want to start exercising but are having a hard time working it into your routine, there are things you can do to start making it more of a habit. Set aside a time to look at your calendar and start setting some SMART goals for incorporating exercise into your life. Pick times that will be convenient for you with no distraction. Add these exercise times into your calendar and set reminders and timers to make sure they happen. Think about your reason for wanting to exercise and remind yourself of it daily, whether that's an overall goal to be healthier, lose weight, or tone up. It can even be helpful to leave running shoes, workout clothes, weights etc. out the night before where you are sure to see them the next day and have a visual reminder to keep your exercise appointment.
Once you do actually begin to make exercise a habit, you will reap so many benefits that it will no longer be something you have to do, but something you actually want to do because it makes you look and feel so amazing!
Stay healthy Friends!