This question as easy as it sounds is very complex! I can safely say I spend approximately 20% of my time as a physiotherapist talking about how to fit exercise in our lives. Some of us…. I will call them the ‘blessed folk’ are able to wake at 5.30am to go for 10mile run and get back in time for the school run. The rest of us still find we’re being woken by the alarm or the kids and are still exhausted. I personally have a mental battle with myself whilst driving to a highly energetic class once a week!
Exercise in my humble opinion is the key to everything we need for a healthy head, body and heart. All the research I read for most of today’s illnesses and injuries direct us to regular exercise.
So, the first question is what exercises should I do?
You need a magic mix
- Cardiovascular Exercis
- Mobilising your joints
A good exercise regime needs to involve a cardiovascular element. Cycling, running, swimming, walking. 20 minutes is a good amount to start with and then gradually increase.
Working out in the gym will also work your heart but not with endurance.
If you are starting out and have any concerns about how hard you should be working your heart especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time you could use your FitBit to help you regulate your heart rate.
You need to be working at a heart rate that is suitable for your age. To calculate this, first off you need to calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting 220 from your AGE. This gives you the heart rate that is maximum for you. You should not be working at your maximum heart rate.
Once you work out your max heart rate (HR) then you can work out where you need to be working,
If you are 44, then your calculation will be 220-44= 176 is your maximum HR.
‘The Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program recommends a target heart rate of 65 percent to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise.’
So, for me at 44 if I work at 65% in any workout I do my heart rate needs to be around 114 beats per minute. If I want to work harder, it needs to be 132.
Your level of exertion can also be estimated by how you feel. We have all done exercise where we have worked so hard we can hardly drag ourselves home.. This use to feel good! I certainly noticed that after I had kids and suddenly found that I was 40+ exercising that hard DID NOT feel good anymore!! Not only did it take me up to 5 days to recover but feeling so tired made it hard for me to be that mom that did everything!!!
If you are someone who likes to feel worked out I recommend you use a heart monitor so that you know what pace you should be working at.
Don’t fall for the myth that we all need to be doing High Intensity Interval Training. You certainly should not be doing this if you are just getting back to exercise.
The draw of High intensity Interval training
What you need to work out is why are you exercising? What is your motive?
A big motive to people is weight loss and a big draw to HIIT exercise is that it burns calories and is quick!. But I think it’s not something that is good for all of us so next time you download a 10minute beasting session on YouTube wear your Fitbit, get a App (Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor) on your phone and check what your heart is saying.
Often you may feel that you are not working out at all but as you get fitter your heart rate will stay lower even though you are working harder.
Change your expectations
If you are just returning to exercise after an injury or pregnancy or you are trying to help a long-term condition the key is to start gently. If you are starting after a long break or even just starting out, then you need your body to get use to exercising. This I can tell you having been through it many times is the HARDEST bit.
It’s slow and you probably don’t feel like you are doing anything. If you are starting exercise for weight loss, then you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of High Intensity Training workouts. It may help to reduce weight quickly but really unless you have underlying strength you will just be putting lots of load through your tendons and joints and is a recipe for injury.
The rules are GET STRONG before you do impact work.
If you have an injury and you have tried many times to exercise but you cannot get the right thing for you then you need specific advice. No matter how useful generic advice is, everyone is different, and this is what I enjoy, finding the right exercise for you.
Strength exercises are also important, there are many ways to do strength, in the gym with a trainer, in a class such a body pump or Pilates.
If you have an injury look for exercises to help strengthen those areas such as leg work if we have knee pain and shoulder work if we have shoulder pain. Never push through pain and always stop if it makes your pain worse.
The general rules for an exercise is if it doesn’t feel worse during, after or the next morning then the likelihood is that the exercise is not causing you a problem.
The main ways to fit exercise in are:
- Have it as part of your weekly schedule. For me I need to have the time scheduled out as exercise time at the start of the week. I remember when I as in the throws of babydom my husband would say… Ok I’m here now go for a run.. This would panic me, I wasn’t prepared, mentally more than physically so would often come up with some excuse or if I went would hate it!
- Choose some exercise that you may possibly enjoy. I have noticed that women like classes, men like structure and maybe a bit of data collection.
- Get in to a routine. Put the exercise you do in a routine and then you will come to love it, miss it even. This takes up to 3-4 weeks and once you have a class or a running route or a walk scheduled in then you will not want to miss it.
- Don’t rely on others. Start an exercise on your own and then if a friend wants to come along then great. Relying on others only takes away responsibility if one cannot make it.
- Book up to a course of classes. Then you WILL definitely go!
If you are struggling with what to do and are stuck in a cycle of injury then this is when you should get in touch as you may need more of a structured plan
Flexibility, stretching is really important especially if you are working on strength. If you are doing lots of squats and bum toning exercises, make sure you use a foam roller on your legs and glutes regularly as you can get pain from tight muscles.
Finally set yourself a manageable challenge and stick to it!
If you have an injury or you feel you need one to one support and guidance, maybe a physiotherapy session would be more suitable.