It’s no surprise that the amount of time that experts say you should exercise has some variability to it. The same goes for the intensity of your workouts. Heck, Mike and I don’t always agree, we’re not even experts! So what should you do if you’ve found yourself in a portion of your fitness world where you haven’t explored the map yet? Well, for one thing, you could take a page out of the Galaxy Quest handbook: “Never give up. Never surrender!” Let’s assume that’s a given. Now, how long should you keep up the fight, and how hard?
Health experts say that, at a minimum, folks should at least try to reach the recommended exercise allotment. For kids and teenagers, that’s an hour a day. For adults, on any given week, we should try and get two and a half hours of moderate intensity activity (walking or dancing or some other active hobby) or about half that much (75 minutes) of vigorous activity (jogging, weightlifting, or playing a sport). It’s a very reachable goal – going for a brisk half hour walk or bike ride, Monday through Friday? Doing a couple of dance or yoga classes, or maybe learning a martial art? Piece of cake!
If you’re pressed for time between work, and family, and gaming (and, hey, we’ve all been there… and some of us still are) – maybe the high-intensity, short-duration method will fit the bill. The caveat is that high-intensity exercise is hard work, and kind of sucks while you’re doing it (obvious remark is obvious). On the upside, it’s over quickly, though you might be sore later. This doesn’t mean it needs to be complex or crazy – jumping rope for a minute, resting a minute, and repeating that ten times (20 minutes total) is a total butt-kicking cardio session. If you’re feeling slightly less coordinated, joining something like a spinning class might fit the bill (it’s basically like riding a stationary bike in a night club with a perky drill instructor, at least all the times I’ve tried it). If you’d rather do something a little goofy at home, whacking the hell out of an old tire with a sledgehammer (one minute on, one minute off, just like jumping rope) is both a great full-body workout and a fantastic way to burn off some frustration.
If you want to print out a picture of someone who annoys you and tape it to the tire, I won’t tell anybody.
On the other hand, that kind of intense routine might not be up your alley, either because you’re still new to things, or coming back from an injury, or it’s just not your thing. There are plenty of ways to get your workout on to keep healthy without needing a ShamWow for your forehead afterward. Walking and biking, of course, are things that most anyone can do. Going out dancing, or working in the yard are also ways to combine exercise with fun (and there are a lot of group fitness classes that are taking advantage of the fun factor – some friends of ShrinkGeek have been saying that Zumba is a hoot).
But, at the end of the day/week/month, it’s all just a matter of making sure you’re up and moving.
In short, exercise is like XP or ammo:
“Some is better than none. More is better than some. Too much is almost impossible to get.”
-Stephen Ball, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, University of Missouri