You know the motto “Less is more?”
It’s really true for a lot of things: ghost peppers, drugstore perfume, puns, overhead lighting, and—most surprisingly—exercise.
Actually, maybe that isn’t surprising to you. Maybe you think the amount you should exercise is zero. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you truly believed that. You just want it to be so, and who can blame you? It’s all the more reason why you’ll want to rejoice over this news:
You don’t need to work out as much as you think.
Many women opt for exercise in an attempt to burn off some body fat. A daily elliptical session or cardio-kickboxing class worked in your twenties, right? Well, not for everyone. And now, as your birthdays pile up and young adulthood becomes a blurry memory, don’t count on chronic cardio to keep your clothes fitting fine. In fact, it could have the opposite effect.
You’re dealing with a different body now. Let’s call it more subtle. Pounding away at cardio or overdoing any exercise can end up preventing you from burning fat—and it may even make you store more. By stressing your body like that, you’re releasing cortisol into your system. Since your life is probably more stressful now than it used to be, adding more cortisol causes your body to hold onto fat, especially around your middle. Not only is that a potentially unhealthy place to carry weight, it doesn’t help you fit into your wardrobe, either.
On the other hand, moving a lot is good for your brain. Makes sense: You’re made to move. The wonderful thing about this is the word “move.” You don’t need to go to the gym every day or practice yoga for hours. Simply consider moving more during your day. Not only does that do your brain good, but it keeps your body aging gracefully, too.
The effective dose of exercise
Walk daily for at least 20 minutes.
If you want to take a day off now and then, no problem.
You’re doing them, right? Squats and push-ups! Of course, you could do more, but just the two moves do a world of good for your body.
Push your muscles once a week.
How long you spend working out isn’t as important as getting all of the major muscles and movement patterns covered. (Reach out if you don’t know what this means—I’ll also write more about it in a future post…) The more intense the exercises are, the less amount of time you need to devote to them.
Sprint once a week.
Wait! Don’t go away!!! This is NOT what you think. All this means is that you dial up your cardio intensity in little spurts. Huh? Okay, when you’re walking, every few minutes go really fast for a minute, or walk up a hill, then return to your normal speed—repeat this several times. That’s it. You can try this any movement you do.
Give your muscles a good stretch twice a week.
This doesn’t need to be a long session. You only need to take 5-10 minutes, unless you want to do more. You don’t have to follow any particular protocol, either (yoga, I’m looking at you). Simply stretch your major muscles and wherever you feel tight. Doing them after your strength and sprint sessions would be perfect.
That’s it. Pretty doable, don’t you think? And speaking of that, don’t overthink this. As I’ve written before: There are no magic workouts. Spend less time and get better results. Then, if you want to think about something, make it this: What fun will you have with all of your extra time and energy?