B.E. Healthy: Exercise: How Much is Too Much?

How many days a week are you exercising? More importantly, how LONG are each of these exercise sessions? If your mindset is “the more time I spend exercising, the better,” I have wonderful news for you! The days of doing cardio for hours at a time are over. Research shows over and over that shorter, high-intensity workouts give you the biggest “bang for your buck.” Not only are they great for your heart health, but you’ll burn more fat and increase your metabolism with these types of workouts (over a more moderately paced longer workout).

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week, or better yet, 20-60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise three days per week. Of course, if you have any health issues, you should consult with your doctor before trying out a vigorous intensity exercise. A good way to know if you are completing a vigorous intensity workout is the “talk test.” If you are doing a moderately intense exercise, you should be able to talk but not sing. If you are doing a vigorously intense exercise, you should barely be able to talk without taking a breath (via igrow.org).

A common example of vigorous intensity exercise is HIIT (or high-intensity interval training). The benefits of HIIT are plentiful. Health Fitness Revolution says a 15-minute HIIT workout burns more calories than jogging for an hour. Beyond that, you continue to burn fat and calories for up to 24 hours after you complete your HIIT workout

Weight lifting, sprinting, CrossFit, Metabolic Effect, and Boot Camps (just to name a few) are all considered vigorous intensity type workouts. For the past three years, I have been consistently doing vigorous-intensity type workouts that are always less than an hour. This is incredibly different from my running past. I used to spend well over an hour a day jogging. While training for my one-and-only marathon, it wasn’t unusual for long runs to last three to four hours! I love being able to get to the gym, work out, and get home all in about an hour. The best part? My body has responded in a positive way to these short, intense workouts. More muscle and more confidence in what my body can do!

Are you training for a marathon or interested in training for a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon? That is so great! I am not bashing running at all. However, I would recommend incorporating a bit of strength training into your running routine. I promise it will help you run faster. FUN FACT: I can run a mile over two minutes faster now than I could while I was training for a marathon three years ago. The difference? I was doing nothing but running. Incorporating strength training and/or HIIT is the secret!

A few tips to get you started with HIIT type workouts:

–   Most gyms offer these types of classes. If you aren’t currently a member at a gym (or any workout facility), try a free trial at a couple of different facilities to see how you like it!

–   Find a workout partner! Someone who is new to training, or perhaps a veteran that can show you the ropes.

–   Check out Pinterest for a plethora of home HIIT workouts.

–   Start slow. You’ll likely be pretty sore after your first few HIIT workouts, so don’t try to jump into doing them six days a week.

–   Don’t forget rest days! 1-2 days a week is ideal. If you still want to move on your rest days, try going for a walk (not a power walk, a leisure walk).