Individuals who are new to regular exercise, or those who are considering recommitting after a long hiatus, may have preconceived notions about what it takes to effectively reap the benefits of a new routine. For this reason, I want to establish a number of foundational principles and debunk some common myths surrounding fitness. Reworking your current schedule to include exercise can seem like a daunting task, but starting with a foundation of knowledge may help to quell the discouraging thoughts that make starting a new exercise habit so difficult.
Following are three important evidence-based facts about exercise and fitness.
1. Reaping the benefits of exercise does not require a large time commitment.
If your idea of exercise is a monotonous jog around the block or on the treadmill, you need to start defining exercise in broader terms. Long walks or runs are great if you enjoy them enough to complete them on a regular basis, but there are endless activities that can lead to similar benefits while requiring less exercise time. Vigorous-intensity exercise (exercising at 77 to 94% of maximum heart rate*) has been shown to have positive effects on cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness in bouts as short as 10 minutes. (*The Gelish equation to estimate maximum heart rate is HRmax = 207 – [0.7 x age].)
Examples of vigorous-intensity exercise include sprinting, swimming, boxing, jumping rope, dancing, bicycle sprinting, and a number of other exercises that can be performed at a gym or fitness center.
2. Working out at a gym does not require any more than basic knowledge and can lead to drastic results within weeks.
The benefits of consistent workouts are created by bodily adaptations triggered by a stimulus—the activity that you performed. While experienced weightlifters and endurance athletes require more advanced and intricate stimuli to produce more adaptations, those who are sedentary can expect to see significant gains in strength or aerobic capacity in a short amount of time when they start exercising regularly. This can make for an excellent motivating factor when starting an exercise habit.
3. There isn’t one type of exercise that’s mandatory in order to achieve positive results.
Purposeful exercise generally falls into one of two categories: resistance or endurance. However, many different activities straddle the lines between these two forms (such as CrossFit, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT), boxing, gymnastics, and various other sports). All types of exercise have the potential to improve overall health.
Benefits of resistance training include increased resting metabolic rate (faster metabolism), improved insulin sensitivity, lower body-fat percentage, increased bone density, potential for slower cognitive decline, improved balance, and improved strength, mobility, and self-esteem. Endurance exercise has the potential to produce many of the same benefits while having a slightly more robust effect on cardiovascular health. This shows that even without choosing a specific activity, you can realize the rewards of exercise.
Careful planning can be important for effective habit change, but sometimes too much thought can hinder your ability to implement change. The mind always seems to have a way of creating obstacles. Remember that physical activities can produce benefits in just a few short sessions per week, even when performed with just basic knowledge and in an unorganized way.
Hopefully this new knowledge will help you smash through your barriers and get moving! Looking to add exercise to your workplace, click below for how to get started.