Too much of a good thing…

Exercise is good for us. But, how much is too much?

And, maybe more importantly, how much is too little? The Australian Government guidelines recommend that adults over 18 should be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day on five or more days a week to be healthy. What does this mean?

• 30 – 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day will prevent weight gain.

• If you have recently lost weight, you should aim for 60 – 90 mins of daily activity to maintain that loss. Moderate activity includes housework, taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to school or work etc. However, you will need to increase the intensity of your workouts if you want to increase your fitness and enjoy all the other related health benefits (cardio-respiratory function, blood pressure control, weight management, cognitive and emotional benefits). So, how much exercise is enough? To increase your fitness, strength and flexibility this is a good guide:

• Aerobic activity: 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week

• Maintaining muscle mass: strength training 30-45 minutes, 2-3 alternate days a week

• Flexibility: 2-3 days a week on alternate days Sessions can be combined to cover all these areas – stretching at the end of an aerobic or strength session will help you meet your flexibility needs. Work on your balance by performing some exercises on one leg, changing over half way through the sets. Ask a trainer to help you modify some of your exercises.

What level is right for you?

Just starting out
If you have had a break from exercising, or are new to it, it is a good idea to allow a rest day between intensive exercise sessions to give your body time to recover and repair. Been at it for a while? If exercise is already a routine for you, try mixing things up a bit, for example:

• Monday – run/swim

• Tuesday – weights

• Wednesday – walk (active recovery time)

• Thursday – boxing etc.

This will keep things interesting for you and, importantly, will prevent repetitive strain injuries as you use different muscles and movement patterns. Already fit and need an extra challenge? Try monitoring your heart rate during your session to see just how hard you are working. It’s easiest with a heart rate monitor, but you can take your pulse at your neck after a big effort to measure this too. Firstly, you need to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Do this by subtracting your age from 220. This gives you your 100% effort heart rate. Then you calculate your 65-75% training zone. Eg: if you are 35 years old: 220 – 35 = 185 beats per minute (bpm) maximum 185 * 0.75 = 139 bpm (75% MHR) 185 * 0.65 = 120 bpm (65% MHR) If you are fit and healthy, don’t be afraid to push yourself to your maximum heart rate. You won’t be able to maintain this level for long, but it will challenges your aerobic system and will increase your fitness.

Take a break don’t forget to allow yourself recovery time. Recovery can be a complete rest day or active recovery – a lighter workout, walk or swim. Rest forms a crucial part of your exercise program. It can take the muscles 36-90 hours to repair after a workout. Combined with a balanced diet and a good night’s sleep, this allows the muscles to repair, strengthen and grow. As always, it is recommended people consult a doctor before undertaking a new exercise program, especially those who are overweight or suffering from conditions that put them at risk eg heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes etc

Be careful – you might just catch the exercise bug, becoming addicted to the post-exercise high!

Anja Lineen Personal Trainer