Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Myth: Exercise Takes Long Hours/Is Worthless If I Can't Exercise Regularly

Speaking of miserable, getting in shape (not to be confused with losing weight, mind you) doesn't have to take a really long time. The fact that it does for most people though, is probably a good thing. Let's be clear: there's no silver bullet, and there's no magic method to get in shape quickly, but there's a great deal of new research that shows a healthy exercise regimen doesn't mean spending hours at the gym every single day. One study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and published in the March 2012 edition of the Journal of Physiology (PubMed link) showed that even 20 minutes per day can be all you need.

Here's the catch: yes, there's an easier way to do this, one that requires less time, but you'll need to up the intensity of your workouts in order to benefit. The process is called High Intensity Interval Training. Interval training is a great way to cut down on the length of your workouts and get results in less time, but it requires more effort. Essentially, yes, you can get a great workout in 15 minutes a day every day, but most people will make themselves miserable in the process and give up their exercise regimen within a few days. As always, talk to your doctor about what you can handle, start slowly, and find the sweet spot that works for you between intensity and time. If you have an hour to spare every day, use it instead of killing yourself cramming your exercise into a half-hour. If you can handle a super-intense half-hour workout, go for it.

The other point worth making though is that yes, regular, repeated exercise has great health benefits, but if you don't think you can fit in a workout every single day for the rest of your life, that's no reason not to go for a walk today. Even a half-hour walk can make a big difference. Any activity is good activity, don't cheat your body out of it because you don't think you'll be able to do it again tomorrow, or the next day.