I first started working out I was always so fixated on that 1-hour time frame. I thought that in order to get in a real workout, it had to be an hour. Maybe it’s because all of the classes I took were based in an hour time slot? Or maybe it was because of the elliptical or treadmill: you know how they tell you how many calories per hour you’ll essentially burn if you are exercising at a certain level?
You know, that’s probably exactly why we fixate on this hour time-frame.
But here’s the thing – unless our goal is to participate in an endurance sport like distance running or swimming or something like that, exercising for an hour a day most days of the week isn’t really necessary. THANK GOD. Because who actually has time for that, ha!
If your goal is to participate in an endurance sport or event, you’d definitely have to train your body for it. But if your goal more along the lines of developing a consistent routine of some type of movement or even weight loss, those hour-long workouts are actually counter-productive.
How often can we regularly commit a solid hour at a time to exercising?
Maybe sometimes, but it’s pretty rare that it’s more than once a week if even that much.
And if we can’t commit to something, we’re not going to stick with it for any extended length of time.
Currently ,the CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity OR 75 minutes of high intensity or combined moderate and higher intensity every week. When we break those recommendations down into daily chunks, it looks like this:
- Moderate intensity such as steady-state walking, biking, elliptical, low-intensity exercise classes
- 21 minutes 7x/week
- 30 minutes 5x/week
- 50 minutes 3x/week
- Vigorous + Moderate intensity such as interval training, lifting weights, running
- 11 minutes 7x/week
- 15 minutes 5x/week
- 25 minutes 3x/week
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with choosing moderate intensity exercise, if you’re looking to see some type of result without spending a lot of time working out, upping the intensity is a great option.
There is a time and a place for all types of exercise and intensity levels. Pretty much through the last trimester of my pregnancy up until Tommie was like 6 months old, mentally, the only thing I was really capable of doing was going for a walk on a rare and inconsistent basis. The thought of high or even moderately intense exercise sounded freakin’ awful and I wanted nothing to do with it.
But, if you have some specific goals in mind, if you’re ready at this time in your life, to get back to a consistent routine of exercise starting with short but intense workouts might just be your ticket to getting back into a good groove of working out. Here are a two things to consider:
1: Focus on intensity over duration. Don’t have a lot of time? Intensity is your friend. You hear instructors and coaches talking about the rate of perceived exertion regularly. Or at least I hope you do. Basically, on a scale of 1-10, 1 being sitting on the couch eating potato chips and 10 = calling an ambulance because you’re going into cardiac arrest, you want to stay at a 6-8 for the majority of your workout during high intensity exercise. That doesn’t mean you have to sustain that 6-8 throughout the workout, but during the higher-intensity portions of training, it needs to be, well intense. That means you may be slightly breathless. Or you’re sweating a lot. Or your muscles are “feeling the burn”. When you exercise at a high intensity, you shouldn’t be able to sustain it for more than a few minutes at a time. If you feel like you could do it forever (whatever you’re doing – lifting weights, running, whatever the movement is), than that would not be considered high intensity.
2: Make the most out of the things you can do vs. focusing on the things you can’t. Specifically, I’m talking about high impact exercises. Just because an exercise or workout is high in intensity doesn’t mean that it has to be high impact. High intensity exercise doesn’t have to involve a ton of running or jumping or any other type of movement that doesn’t feel good for your body. I don’t run. I rarely jump. There are a tons of reasons why, one being that I literally hate running. And, I just had a baby a year ago and I am still working on strengthening my core and pelvic floor and high impact movements don’t serve me in that capacity. Also, I’ve seen way too many fitness instructors have to retire early because of hip/knee/back problems from years of high impact exercise. So instead, I choose to make the most out of the things I can and enjoy doing.