I have had a few conversations recently that all come back to the question around what exercise should I do? The problem with answering what appears a simple question is exercise is not just one thing to be done, rather, it is a collection of different strategies with very different outcomes. So what exercise should you do?
This answer has to be addressed to the current level of exercise you are doing. If you are basically doing nothing then this question is easy to answer, – DO Something, DO Anything and DO IT ASAP. Then keep doing it until you can say you have some level of regularity with your movement.
To do this just pick something that is fun to you, inspires you and/or is most convenient. If you hate exercise then pick the least hated options or hire a personal trainer to teach you to enjoy it. This is all the advice that you need because for the untrained person that initial stage of exercise benefits comes from doing almost anything. Whatever form you do, be it running, a dance class, a yoga course or Pilates will allow you to make fitness gains across different areas. You do not have to do the gym nor any special workout as the base of every single exercise plan is consistency in doing it. So learn this then take it up a level…
OK, now what??
Once you are consistent with exercise to some degree then it becomes really important what you do. Any programme will take you to a level but to get the next level up you need to use a different approach. The higher the level you reach the more scientific, consistent and/or dedicated your approach needs to become.
To know what to do you identify benefits you are trying to get out of exercise. Different approaches bring particular positive results. The main areas are –
Injury rehab & movement ability – Through targeted stretches, strengthening and muscle activation exercises you can transform how the body moves, reduce pain and rehabilitate injuries. These exercises are not necessarily about difficulty but more about knowing what to target. Ideally these are done more often for shorter periods, e.g. 5-10 minutes a day over long exercise sessions once a week.
Health – Exercise has profound benefits from physical health issues such as blood pressure and diabetes to mental ones such as mood and concentration. Much of these gains are done through cardio while others through resistance exercise. For health benefits the exercise does not need to be too challenging nor of that long a duration. It is about getting it done regularly.
Weight loss – Exercise and movement is a vital element of weight loss methodology. There are two main approaches, hard core high intensity sessions designed to spike metabolism for many hours afterwards and long steady state forms of moving which includes walking (e.g steps) to increase calorie expenditure. Neither is better and both lead to fat loss IF you have set your food intake to the appropriate level (low enough across a week to lose fat yet not too low you cannot stick to it for more than a couple of days). The focus here is on frequency and of course moderating your food intake.
Muscle Gain – Muscle gain happens as a result of moving the muscles against a resistance. This could be a dumbbell, your body weight or trying to jump against gravity. There are many types of methods to do this with the bulk of the advice from the influence of bodybuilding. The focus here is on working hard and training numerous times per week. The crux of the method is whether you can keep doing it over many months to years to build the needed muscle. True muscle growth is slow and steady.
Sports training – The final area is making your body better at performing your chosen sport. There are very different demands on the body based on the sport and the huge variety of training approaches and systems reflect this. The higher a level you reach in a sport the more specialised your focus needs to become. The emphasis is on regular training with a very targeted training plan
OK Great but what should I do? … To answer that follow this questionnaire :
1) Are You Consistent With Your Exercises? Yes / No / Never Tried?
– Not Consistent / Never Tried – Forget exercise plans, just do anything that appeals and focus on doing fun exercise methods for a couple of months.
Note If you have a pattern of very consistent and being exercise crazy for a while followed by a period of no exercise then consider doing an intermediate / beginner plan when you are next ‘on it’ and not some crazy hard plan until you have proved consistency across a longer period.
– Yes I am Consistent / Never Tried – Go to Question 2)
2) Do you have any injuries or movement issues you need to resolve?
Yes – If new to exercise or have a lot of movement issues or injuries then the first month or two of your plan should be focused upon improving the body and restoring balance.
If you have just one or two minor issues you can mould these elements of the plan into one of the routines below.
No – Go to Question 3)
3) Do You Want To Lose Weight, Gain significant amount of muscle and/or train for a sport or event?
Yes – Great that you have a goal, now pick just ONE of the three focus areas and follow an exercise plan targeted to achieve this. If you have more than one goal ticked you will need to rotate the planned focus every month or two. People get greedy thinking they can achieve all things at the same time. While it is true you can make gains in different areas it is most helpful to pick one area only and dedicate the major focus of your exercise routine towards this.
No – This means you are exercising for general health purposes. Ideally find a training plan that has variety including some form of cardio alongside basic strengthening. You may of course use many methods of training as they appeal to you such as sports focus as they all will aid a health based goal. If you have specific health issues to address, e.g. diabetes, blood pressure, then follow a plan that has the exercises that benefit these specific issues.
So How Do I Find Out What To Do?
I will tell you of course!…. However, this article has gone on way too long… so hold tight and I will detail the different training plan types in future posts.