Exercise! Yay! ….

Exercise! Not something that makes many people go yay! But so important for so many reasons (better circulation, better quality of sleep, weight management, more energy, strong body, etc) unless you are medically unfit for exercise. Experts say that you need at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Sometimes they don’t even completely agree about that. Its even worse when you need to know, what is better? Cardio, or strength training, or both, or rather just stretching. Or should you be going at one constant speed and level of intensity, or should you be doing interval training? What happens when you plateau or don’t get the results you wanted or it takes longer than expected? Confusing much?

I think that it depends on what is right for you. I think it is important to note that you do need to do a combination of exercises for various reasons, cardio keeps your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy and gives you good levels of oxygen. Strength exercises keep you strong and help your muscles support your bones, which is especially important as you grow older, especially in women as our risk for osteoporosis (brittle bones, usually because they lose density by getting little holes in them) is higher due to our hormones and as you age, it gets worse. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/osteoporosis/osteoporosis-and-gender.aspx) Weight baring exercise such as walking, skipping or jogging is also great for this. Stretching to stay flexible helps you feel less stiff and helps prevent you from pulling or tearing a muscle.

Whatever you do though, make sure that you are able to exercise, its best to have a check up with your doctor first, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while, and make sure that you listen to your body. Take it easy, I don’t mean don’t push, you should get your heart rate up to the point where you can’t carry a full on conversation, but if you can’t speak at all, or you want to pass out, that is a sure sign you are going too hard. If it hurts, and I don’t mean that burn in your muscles when you are working them hard, but any sharp pains or aches or anything like that may mean you are doing it wrong or you have pulled a muscle. If you have recently been sick or injured, take things slowly, you don’t want to place too much stress on your body if you have just recovered or are recovering.

The key is to find types of exercise that you like. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you won’t keep at it. I don’t like running. Why run when no one is chasing you? But give me taebo or get me dancing like a crazy person and I’m as happy as can be. Here are different types of exercise you can try, some might surprise you:

  • Walking (Cardio)
  • Jogging (Cardio)
  • Skipping (Cardio)
  • Sport such as soccer, netball, hockey, baseball, cricket, rugby, etc (often a combination of cardio and strength)
  • Dancing (Strength and cardio)
  • Yoga (Stretch and strength)
  • Pilates (Stretch and strength)
  • Gardening (Combination of everything)
  • Cleaning the house (Combination of everything)
  • Calisthenics (good old sit ups, jumping jacks, push ups, pull ups, squats) (Combination of everything)
  • Isometric training (holding positions for a set time, especially positions that work multiple muscle groups at a time) (Stretch and strength)
  • Playing with the kids (Combination of everything)

Obviously those are just a few, there is so much more out there. You just need to find what’s right for you.

What if you don’t have time? Its not always how long you do it for, but the intensity, and more importantly, being consistent. Set aside time each day to exercise. If you only have 5 minutes, that’s better than not exercising at all. Here are a few tips:

  • Try doing a set of  push ups, crunches and squats, say 20 each, 5 days a week.
  • Exercise with baby/ kids, use them as weights, take the baby out in the pram for a walk, jump on the jumping castle with them, etc
  • Do jumping jacks (or squats, or push ups, or anything that is exercise) during the ad breaks while you watch TV
  • Dance while washing the dishes or cooking, it makes those chores more fun anyway
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift and park your car further away from the shop entrance
  • Skipping (try using a skipping rope for even just 5 minutes straight, and you will see what I mean)
  • High intensity work outs like insanity, you can even make your own, do as many push ups, calf raises, lunges and crunches for a minute each with only 10-20 seconds rest in between each move, and a 30 second rest between a set of 4 minutes. You can even do other exercises, such as tricep dips, squats, the plank, and jumping up and down. You can get really creative here.

There is so much you can do and if the intensity is high, you can do a full workout in under 15 minutes!  But make sure you still keep good form even when you start getting tired. Your knees going over your toes when squatting or lunging places too much stress on your knees, and making your back arch while you do push ups, especially if your tummy is dropping towards the floor can hurt your back.

So make time to exercise, decide how many days a week you will exercise and stick to it, and do something you enjoy, its also good to switch it up every few weeks (do a different type of workout, or change the order you do your exercises in, do extra reps or use bigger weights), this will help prevent that dreaded and very frustrating plateau. The benefits definitely outweigh the discomfort you feel when you exercise. As Rachel Cosgrove says (drop 2 sizes workout): To look like a fox, you need to sweat like a pig! 🙂

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