Most of us know that we need to move more and exercise to keep our bodies healthy. But where do we start? How do we fit exercise into our busy schedule? What are we suppose to do?
First, we need to understand that movement is one of our body’s requirements for life. Therefore, exercise and movement are not optional if we want to be healthy. The misconception lies in what we need to do to meet this requirement. There is no cookie cutter approach to exercise and fitness.
The key is in finding something that makes you happy and feel fulfilled. For someone this may be running, playing a sport, lifting heavy weights, Crossfit, etc. Finding something you genuinely enjoy will make exercise sustainable and ultimately help your body become healthy.
It’s also important to remember that our daily lives are filled with physical stressors like sitting at desks, driving, working on computers etc. that weigh heavily on our physical health over the accumulation of days, weeks, months and years. We have progressively become less active which has pushed our bodies away from a natural state of health.
In this article, I will outline my 4 essentials for exercise that reflect the requirements your body needs to be healthy and potentially achieve optimal fitness.
The 4 Essentials for Movement
LIFT HEAVY: Don’t get scared of this first requirement as “heavy” is a relative term. For one person, this could simply mean walking in the park while for another person it may mean a 500 lb deadlift. The fact of the mater is that our muscles need to be placed under tension in order to grow and adapt. The important point about this requirement is scalability to meet your individual needs. For example a beginner may do a body weight squat, an intermediate may add small weight like a kettle bell and a more advanced individual may use a barbell in varied positions.
MOVE FAST: Unfortunately the conventional idea of running on the treadmill or stair stepper for hours each week are not necessary for conditioning, cardiovascular health or fat loss. In fact, recent research suggest it may even be detrimental. My recommendation is to introduce interval type training. This is an intense near maximal effort exercise (like a sprint or fast cycling) work period followed by a rest period. Alternating between the work and rest period in a 30sec:30sec scheme for 10-15mins will be much more beneficial to the health of your body then a 45min jog on the treadmill.
MOVE SLOW: Take your rest! Your body needs an adequate amount of sleep, de-loading weeks, reduced volume, and reduced excretion in order to meet the requirement of movement and prevent injury. Consider using a couple days/week as “active recovery days” where you do a restore yoga class, a gentle bike ride or even an hour long walk with the intension of using the walk for exercise.
Work on mobility and stretching daily
Lifting Heavy: 3-4 times per week
Moving Fast: 3-5 times per week
Moving Slow: Every day
Remember, you are not in this alone. There are amazing gyms, trainers, classes and fitness professionals out there to help you on your journey. It is never to late to start a fitness routine and try something new. If you are having trouble getting started, my advice would be to try something different. Try a spin class, a Crossfit class, book a trial session with a personal trainer, try a boot camp, a circuit training gym, a running club, a trail running club, a martial arts class, boxing class, kick boxing class etc. There are so many different options out there and really lovely communities of people in all the different disciplines.
You don’t have to be the best at whatever you do. Perfectionism is often an excuse for procrastination and taking action. To achieve optimal health and wellness we need to be doing everything all the time at the same time for a lifetime. Health is derived from an accumulation of the things we do to benefit our bodies. Follow these basic movement guidelines and your health will transform.
Dr. Alfredo is an health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.