You know that one thing that you changed about your fitness program that changed your whole life? Like you realised that veggies don’t totally suck and can actually be pretty yummy. Or that instead of doing abdomen crunches until you’re blue in the face, you found that strength training with good technique was a super intense ‘core’ workout? (and if you didn’t know that earlier, you do now :D)
7 p.m. : You’ve put in a long day at office and are wrapping up work to head home. Your back and neck are achy from sitting so much, your eyes are strained from looking at a screen the whole day, your pants are strained from the (second) samosa you ate mid-meeting. Now what do you see as you drive home?
This article was originally written and published for The Quad at http://thequad.in/article/how-many-hours-a-week-should-i-exercise-for/
Photos courtesy: Rahul Sadagopan for The Quad
Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could answer that question with one magic number? If you exercise for exactly 2.735 hours every week, you’ll get fitter, stronger AND develop the abs of a Greek God.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer to that question. Like so many fitness related questions, the answer is – very annoyingly – ‘it depends’.
It depends on things like,
Your training goals – are you looking to lose some fat, build strength and just get healthier overall? Or are you looking to become the next Serena Williams? The number of hours you should exercise for will change according to which one you picked.
Your sleep pattern – are you chronically sleep deprived and regularly picture trading a kidney in for an extra hour of sleep? Or do you get a peaceful 7-8 hours of sleep?
Time – is the gym your favourite place to hang out and do you bum around there for a couple of hours everyday or do you struggle to squeeze your workouts into your schedule?
Notice the pattern here? Basically, there is no one right answer, but there are many right answers. So, rather than look for that one perfect solution, you need to find your particular solution.
Most of us exercise because we want to be healthier, fitter, and fit into clothes that make us look good. We want our workouts to keep us refreshed through the day and help us sleep better at night. We want our exercise program to keep us feeling strong and pain-free. As a general rule,
Too little exercise
Not enough to produce any effect on the body
“Just right” amount of exercise
You get stronger and healthier!
Too much exercise
Your body shuts down because it can’t handle the load
So where does that leave us? Since I haven’t given you an easy answer to the question (and I am not going to either) here’s a checklist of points instead.
Can you answer YES to all these?
My workouts leave me feeling energised and very rarely exhausted
I do some form of strength training two times a week
I.e. performing exercises against an external resistance (weights, bands, etc.).
Full body movements like squats, deadlifts, presses and rows
I spend 45 minutes each week doing a fun activity that makes me feel good
I.e. playing a sport, or playing with your pets/kids, walking, cycling, Yoga
I can see gradual, continuous progress with my exercise program – I’ve gotten stronger and I feel fitter
Can you answer NO to all these?
Squats hurt my knees and deadlifts hurt my back. Wait, are you telling me that isn’t normal?!
I push hard at the gym every single day and beat myself up if I miss a workout
I rarely find time to exercise and this makes me frustrated, so I eat a ton of sugar instead
I’m told that lifting weights will make me bulky so I only do cardio
And your magic number is…
If you answered YES to the first set of points and NO the second set, you’re doing a great job with your exercise program. Don’t stress about how many hours a week you spend exercising; keep doing what you’re doing and have fun with it!
If you didn’t get the right YESes and NOs or are new to training and have no idea where to start, start with 3 days a week. You’ll need to strength train 1-2 of those 3 days and work on simple endurance on the other days. From there, train or more or less frequently based on how you feel on a daily basis. If you feel strong and energetic during the day and calm and relaxed during the night, try adding in a 4th day of training and see how you feel. If you feel tired and exhausted during the day and have trouble sleeping at night, drop a day of training and see if you’re feeling better.
So, how many hours a week should you exercise for? I hope that I’ve inspired you to look for your perfect answer!
I like to start with the good stuff, so let’s do that: as a society, it’s fantastic that we’ve gotten more conscious about health and fitness. We are slowly waking up to the fact that our sedentary-junk-foody-sleepless lifestyles (are fucking with our bodies) may not be the most ideal way to survive (for a more classy way of putting it). We are building a culture that attaches value to investing time, effort, and money in getting fitter and healthier.
All of this is awesome, agreed. But there’s a darker side to this drive towards fitness: our issues with body image.
Fitness and health have somehow (thank you, media!) gotten associated solely with looking a certain way – thin people are fit; overweight people are not. Not only is that is factually incorrect on many levels, it also drastically limits the definition of health and fitness.
Fitness is not a reflection of your weight on the scale. Your waist-size is not an indicator of overall health. So it’s totally worth your time to look at yourself as more than just what you see in the mirror.
To associate health and fitness solely with how thin a person looks is like judging a buffet based on the starters alone. It’s reductionist, narrow-minded and misses the point entirely!
As if the patriarchy wasn’t frustrating enough, we also have to deal with periods. Ugh.
Incidents of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, dysmenorrhea and other other menstrual disorders are steadily on the rise. And it’s time we talked about them.
You workout regularly, you eat right, you’re feeling great! And then it starts.
The PMS, the cramps, the fatigue, and the emotional upheaval. By the time your period has passed and the symptoms are gone, you feel like you’re starting from square one when you walk back into the gym.
You don’t need the newest equipment, or the latest fitness fad to see results. And while I’m at it, you don’t need to squat on a stability ball to get stronger at the squat. In fact, for most of us, the best way to get stronger using a stability/bosu ball is to pick it up and throw it out the window as far you can. Shiny new objects are fun to play with now and then, but what gets you sustainable results is doing a few exercises, and doing them well.
Yes, I get it. Six packs are hot and you want one.
But before you choke on your grilled skinless chicken breast trying the latest “6 weeks to a six pack” program that some pseudo-professional posted on their Instagram page, let’s take a step back and understand what a six pack is. And whether the grind to get one is worth it (but that’s for you to decide, after reading this).
If you came here looking for the latest faddy detox diet or juice cleanse that promises to burn fat, cleanse your aura, and give you the glowing complexion of a baby’s bottom… you’re in the wrong place.
Fun fact #1 – Detox diets are scams. You don’t need a juice cleanse.
Fun fact #2 – Toxins are not just things that you eat or drink. Toxins can be habits that mess with your progress. So detoxing goes beyond drinking lemon-honey-ginger-unicorn-feather concoctions and praying for miracles.
And the only kind of detox you actually need : are these workout habits wrecking with your progress?
Admit it. Skipping or slacking off warm-ups is something we all do. It may because we find them boring, think we’re rushed for time, or don’t know how to warm-up.
I’m going to skip the part where I list out many compelling reasons why you should warm-up, and you nod along in agreement, and still skip your warm-up anyway. (A Google search will suffice if you are really interested). What you do need to know is,
A good warm-up helps your body perform better in your workout, and prevents the risk of workout related injuries.
The kettlebell Press is arguably one of the most shoulder friendly pressing variations there is.
For fitness professionals / movement geeks : “It involves the coordinated action of the serratus anterior and the middle trapezius muscles, which together lead to the proper rotational action of the shoulder blades.”
For regular folks : “it lets your shoulder do its thing.”
It’s a story that repeats itself. You start a new workout plan with the best of intentions. You adhere to it very strictly for a week. And then you ‘kind of’ do it for another week. And then you stop altogether.
I’ve seen and worked with so many trainees facing this struggle to make fitness a part of their lives. And the struggle here is totally real.
If you aren’t part of the group that enjoys working out, getting sweaty and breathless, while pushing your physical limits, it is hard to be diligent about an exercise program. And even if you do enjoy working out, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to work out consistently.