Social media is awash with perfectly sculpted bodies and 12-pack abdominals served up as fitspiration and to get you exercising, too.
It’s reasonable to suspect not everyone you see on screen is as healthy – or feels as good – as their fitspo profile suggests. And some of them may even be overdoing things on the exercise front.
At the other extreme, many of us spend hours sitting in front of screens and simply don’t move around enough each day to look or feel our best, let alone protect our health.
The proven benefits of regular physical activity include reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, certain forms of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Other benefits of regular exercise include increased circulation (hello healthy glow), increased secretion of the anti-aging substance known as Human Growth Hormone (HGH), increased metabolic rate, more energy, deeper sleep, better moods, better digestion, reduced stress and improved bone density.
On the other hand, too much strenuous exercise (such as endurance training) can elevate our levels of the stress hormone cortisol and generate oxidative free radicals which some studies suggest accelerates the rate at which our cells – and our skin – age.
Although just how much damage oxidative stress does to the body is still unknown. And some studies have found oxidative stress also stimulates our bodies to produce it’s own antioxidants.
However, the fact remains that most of us could do with more exercise not less. According to the latest figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 60 per cent of adults do less than the current recommended guidelines of 30 minutes of physical activity per day and only 20 per cent do an hour or more per day.
And to make matters worse, 30 per cent of adults spend more than five hours doing sedentary leisure activity each day.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend adults be active on most, preferably all, days every week and accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (that’s 2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1.25 or 2.5 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity (or an equivalent mix of both moderate and vigorous activities) each week.
Plus, it’s recommended we do muscle strengthening activities (resistance training with hand weights or your own body weight) at least two days a week.
If your job does require you to be seated for prolonged periods, try to break up your sitting seasons as often as possible.
So whether you are training too much or need to move more, here is a guide to hitting the sweet spot and getting the right amount for you.
You can have too much of a good thing
- If you are continually doing High Intensity Heart Rate Interval Training (HIIT), the likelihood of overtraining is high.
- Founder of Bondi-based fitness studio Flow Training Anthony Marich says three to four 45 minute sessions of HIIT a week is enough for 18-30-year-olds while 30-40 year olds can get away with three weekly sessions and over 40s need only two HIIT sessions per week.
- ‘The older you get, the less intense your training should be,” says Marich. “Having said that walking on flat terrain is not enough. Walking briskly up hills is better.”
Remember you must rest
- If you are constantly feeling tired and lethargic, enduring muscle or joint soreness or just generally lacking the bounce that exercise should deliver, then you may be training too hard.
- Regular rest is imperative to allow your muscles to repair, recover and grow.
- Rest can mean walking, yoga, stretching or rehabilitation or stability work focusing on weak areas of your body.
Marich recommends mapping out your week like this:
In other words, aim for two to three gentle, restorative rest days a week.
And if you need to start exercising
- Start slowly.
- Tune into your intuition while you train because your body knows best.
- “Get in touch with yourself as you train,” says Marich. “How do you feel while your heart rate increases? How do your muscles respond? Slow and steady has won every important race in my life. The irony in building a stable base is that you can be conquering mountains sooner, both metaphorically and physically.”
Finally, don’t forget to stretch
- Stretch is an important part of the rest and recovery stage that should be built into your weekly training schedule.
- As you get older, you need to stretch more.
- “Smart exercisers stretch throughout their training careers,” says Marich. “But we should definitely stretch more as we age.”
Are you getting enough exercise, or perhaps doing a little too much?