I have a sedentary job as an office worker, and I work from eight in the morning to seven in the evening. When I come home, I have to collect my children from the babysitter and take care of them. As a result, I don’t get to exercise much. I spend my weekends with my family and trying to catch up on sleep! How often should I really exercise to be healthy?
The US Department of Health and Human Services has a recommendation for healthy adults:
Aerobic activity: You need to get at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderate aerobic activity a week.
Or if you are doing vigorous activity, you only need to do this 75 minutes a week (that is one hour and 15 minutes).
You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise.
It is best that you spread these minutes or hours throughout your week and not only do extensive exercise once a week.
Strength training: You also need to do strength training for all your major muscle groups at least twice a week.
You can achieve this through using weight machines, dumbbells or your own body weight, or through resistance activities like rowing in the water and rock climbing.
You should aim to use a weight or resistance level that is heavy enough to tire out your muscle group after around 12 to 15 repetitions of that activity.
Do try to aim for 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. If you need to lose weight, you should aim for more than this.
If you want to have rest days, then you should make this time up by increasing your exercise time on your exercising days.
Goodness! I didn’t know about the strength training! Is it a must? I’m a woman and I don’t want to develop big muscles.
Strength or weight training will not make you develop big muscles if you are a woman, unless you take steroids or have a special diet with consumption of a lot of calories and a training programme like the kind female bodybuilders go through.
Women have less muscle mass and 30% less strength than men physiologically. Men have 60% to 85% more muscle mass than women.
We simply cannot grow big muscles like men. (Unless we are taking anabolic steroids, which is a no no, or go for special training and diets.)
Weight training for a woman, or anyone for that matter, will make you healthier and burn more calories throughout the day.
It will tone your body and help reduce body fat, which leads to a slimmer waist, slimmer hips, and well-toned arms and thighs.
That is what most women are aiming for, right?
Let’s talk about moderate exercise. What exactly does it mean?
Moderate exercise includes activities like brisk walking (not leisurely walking), swimming and lawn mowing.
Vigorous exercise includes activities like running, aerobics, Zumba, body combat and all those hectic dance activities.
But I really don’t have time. I work so hard, and I have to take care of my kids when I come home. I don’t have time to join a gym.
You do need to make time to take care of yourself.
Nevertheless, if you really don’t have the time, you can do certain things in your daily routine.
For example, rather than take the lift, you can climb upstairs several floors. Reduce your sitting time. Try to walk around the office to talk to people rather than calling them on the phone.
Even if you work out briefly, it’s good for you. For example, if you can’t walk for 30 minutes, at least you can do three 10-minute brisk walks. While your child is sleeping, try to fit in a 10-minute weight training exercise.
The trouble with most Malaysians is that they don’t want to make the effort, and they eat so much too. No wonder we are so obese.
OK, we have established that I don’t have time. What are the best calorie-burning activities I can do when I can squeeze in the time?
The highest calorie-burning exercise you can do is sprint intervals.
You can run for two minutes with all the speed you can muster, then “rest” by jogging lightly for a minute.
Try to find what suits you. Not many people can keep up this high intensity exercise.
But this is more calorie-consuming than running at a steady pace for 30 minutes because your body adapts to the workout.
Don’t allow your body to get used to any repetitive exercise. Alternate your activities.
The second highest calorie-burning exercise is Tabata training.
This consists of 20 seconds of workout (whatever activity like push-ups, squats etc) at an all out pace, then followed by 10 seconds of recovery. You repeat this eight times.
Others, in order of calorie-burning, are rock-climbing, swimming (butterfly stroke is the hardest), hill running/cycling (up, not down), jogging, skipping rope, rowing and burpees.