Healthy in the new normal blog series:
The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed. For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, the social distancing has been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family. We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.
In the past two blogs in this series, we have discussed how to have a healthy at home workstation and how to use exercise to take a healthy break from screen-time. If you have been able to exercise more because things have slowed down during the COVID-19 outbreak you may be wondering if you will be able to keep it up as things open up again. Let’s take smart advice from motivation and exercise science to learn what you can do to ensure you keep moving in the new normal.
How much is enough exercise?
This is an important question. That feeling that you are not doing enough is exhausting and is what drains motivation to keep going. The answer needs to go beyond weight loss because exercising to burn calories can feel like a never-ending chase. The answer is guided by exercise physiology (the science of how the body responds to exercise), as well as what is important to you about exercising.
Instead of exercising to burn calories, consider that the purpose of exercise is to improve the function of your body at any weight, so you can do what you want and need to do with more ease. This way, you will get what you want in the end without wasting time. Basically, to keep our body able to do the everyday activities and have energy and strength left over for fun activities, we need a combination of strength, stamina and mobility.
- Strength: The ability to move (your body and objects) against gravity. This has to do with the muscles but also your nervous systems ability to tell those muscles how to do movements like lifting from the ground, climbing, lifting over head, pushing and pulling. Doing strength exercises that mimic these movements, 2-3 times a week with gradually increasing resistance so the movement is challenging between 8-12 repetitions, for 1-3 sets is enough to keep your strength. Even doing one set of each exercise has been shown to work. Knowing that one set can work means you can do a shorter strength session on two days a week and still maintain your muscle and bone strength as well as metabolism when life gets busy.
- Stamina: The ability to move your body for extended periods of time without getting tired and needing to stop. Stamina is build through cardio, moving continuously for more than 2 minutes at a time at a breathing level that feels sustainable (moderate to comfortable challenge). You can improve or maintain stamina in three thirty minute bouts a week, or the equivalent, (10 minutes six days a week). As long as the movement is continuous and keeps your breathing at that moderate to comfortable challenge level (not uncomfortable), you can keep your stamina at a level that allows you to move without getting tired easily.
- Flexibility: The ability to move your body freely without resistance, stiffness or tightness. This is best done in small bouts thorough the day. As we mentioned last week, stretching is a perfect way to take a healthy break from screen time or any sedentary activity. On days you are active, stretching at the end of the day can help reduce stiffness the next day. Stretching is most effective when it does not hurt. Pain causes more stiffness and resistance. So gentle mindful stretching works best. Daily stretching in small bouts can help you feel good and reduce tension held in your body from stress.
Put it all together an you have complete exercise plan in less than two percent of your total time each week.
- Three days a week for thirty minutes (or the equivalent in 5-15 minute bouts) of moving continuously at a breathing of moderate to comfortable challenge.
- Twice a week strength training that incorporates movements of daily life, at a challenging but not painful resistance 8-12 repetitions, 1-3 sets each.
- Daily stretch breaks when doing sedentary activities (IE: TV, computer, etc) every 30-60 minutes for a few minutes of total body stretching and for a few minutes after times you are physically active.
Doing this consistently is enough to build and maintain your strength, stamina and flexibility at any stage in your weight loss journey.
Because your body is a use it to keep it system, exercising regularly makes sense. This level is certainly not very time consuming and a worthwhile investment when you know it keeps you healthy and functioning well.
But when life ramps ups, how will you stay motivated to take the time to do even this little bit of exercise? This is where motivation science comes in. In the next blog we will talk about research backed strategies you can use that are known to make exercise habits stick.
Keep Moving, Be Well