In my 20’s I was living down south and worked at a busy ‘southern-style cooking’ restaurant right off the interstate. Customers were tired travelers, who wanted food fast so they could get back on the road. The kitchen was so full of chaos and ‘choice words’ that I would dread an order change because it meant getting my ‘head bit off’ by the cooks. At the end of the night managers had a list of criticisms, and never gave a pat on the back for a job well done. I would collapse when I got home, physically and mentally drained from the constant state of working hard and it never being ‘enough’.
Ever feel like that with exercise? Like you always should be doing more? It’s easy to get caught in the thinking that if you could step it up a bit you could get to the next level, burn more calories, or “fix” other parts of your body. It can make the mere thought of exercise mentally and physically exhausting.
While working on a goal is motivating, the need to continuously come up with new more challenging goals to keep you motivated relies way too much on willpower, and not enough on the natural intrinsic motivation that made you want to lose weight in the first place.
After hearing story after story of patients, “stepping up” their exercise efforts only to get injured or lose motivation, I urge you to take time to find your level of ‘enough’. It could save you a lot of time down the road! Unless you are in athletic training of some kind, there is a level of ‘enough to achieve a healthy weight in a way that lasts. Studies show that most of the the health benefits of exercise are enjoyed, regardless of weight. Finding ‘your level of enough’ with exercise means you are taking charge of your health, and that is one of the most compelling reasons most people give for losing weight.
Here are the estimated levels of exercise needed to get the health benefits from exercise. (I emphasize estimated because this is ‘in the lab’ and in real life I often see improvements with lower levels of exercise as long as they are done consistently):
- Strength training for your whole body, twice a week, 8-12 repetitions, one set that brings your muscles to a comfortable challenging level that does not cause muscle soreness the next day.
- Cardiovascular exercise three days a week for thirty minutes of continuous movement at a level that causes a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing.
- Movement breaks for every hour of stillness done in a way that give you a mental and a physical break from the sedentary activity; ie: taking a brief walk, stretching, doing balance or agility exercises.
- Stretching daily as movement breaks and after physical activities to help maintain or improve mobility, reduce inflammation. This includes moving joints through their range of motion or holding stretch positions in a way that does not cause pain or discomfort.
This amount of exercise takes less than 2% of your total time. The key is doing quality exercise, the kind that is based on the science of how your body is designed to move, so you don’t keep feeling like you need to increase the quantity of your exercise.
You might choose to do more, but know that you don’t have to do more to be healthy at any weight.
Keep Moving, Be Well,