It's around this stage of the program many of you ask me about 'how' or 'if' you should be exercising and the simple answer is, it's different for everyone, although everyone should at least be moving each day, because a sedentary lifestyle has been scientifically proven to be more dangerous than smoking! But before I go into more detail about my thoughts on exercise, I'll start by telling you my secret tip for getting the most out of your exercise routine... it doesn’t involve thrashing yourself at the gym, or pounding pavements until you drop to the floor in a heap of sweat to be effective! Many of us equate our level and frequency of exercise as a major influence on weight loss, but in actual fact exercise is not the key to effective weight loss, but rather our gut function and diet is - by at least 80%. Don't get me wrong - exercise is most certainly an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but a growing body of evidence suggests that the benefits of exercise are more correlated with reducing your risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as improving mental health and boosting motivation, vs reducing the number on the scales!
There are times when certain forms of exercise, or even too much can have a negative impact on our health, and that's in the case of a condition known as 'adrenal fatigue'. You can read more about this condition in a previous blog post I wrote here. Engaging in too much exercise when your adrenal reserve is compromised, is like spending money you dont have in the bank - causing you to go into debt- or in this case, 'adrenal debt'. If you're suffering from a chronic illness, or adrenal fatigue syndrome, I recommend pulling back from high intensity exercise and focus on 'restorative' forms of exercise - like gentle yoga, stretching and breathing exercises, or walking. This will enable you to build up your adrenal reserves whilst still keeping mobile. As your health starts to improve, you can begin to exercise at a higher intensity and frequency, providing you listen to your body for signs you might be overdoing it. But remember, less is more when it comes to your daily training session in that you don't need to spend an hour more at the gym to get the benefits, 20 minutes is plenty and even less if you are doing high intensity interval training - a type of exercise that involves repeated short bouts of high-intensity exercises, followed by brief recovery periods. This sequence is repeated several times in a row usually for a duration between 20–30 minutes.
Incorporating some form of resistance exercise is very important for maintaining muscle mass, because we age at the rate we lose muscle so through engaging in resistance exercises such as light weights, pilates or yoga, you'll be helping to sustain your muscle mass and the more muscle mass you have the better your body will be at burning fat.
One of the most important things to remember about exercise is not to do it out of 'fear'. How many women do we see stressing over losing the 400 grams they gained over night because they ate too much on their dinner date? If your prime motivation to exercise is out of fear of weight gain, you'll actually trigger the release of stress hormones which over time will actually down regulate your metabolism.
Some of you may not realise how my health journey began some twenty odd years ago... pounding pavements and thrashing myself at the gym, whilst in training for a marathon. My attitude to my exercise regime was not what I'd call 'healthy' looking back as I was very 'precise' about how often I exercised and for how long. Lets just say that approach didn't turn out so well for me, as exercised to a point where my immune defenses became compromised and I contracted glandular fever and cyto megalo virus, which later developed into CFS - chronic fatigue syndrome and subsequently, Lupus. Since making a full recovery, my approach, to exercise is totally different! My number one rule is - if I don't enjoy it, I don't do it! I give myself permission to enjoy whatever form of exercise I engage in, which is one of my keys to staying committed to it. Too many of us forget the simple concept that we're allowed to be happy, no matter what you do, or where you are, or who you're with in life, and exercise is the last thing that we should be dreading! If you are, you're engaging in the wrong form, so find one you love, or at least makes you feel good!
The rest of my exercise rules go a little something like this:
Listen to your body not your mind
Scale back if your adrenals are flagging
Move every day – even if it’s just gentle stretching or a walk in the park or by the ocean.
Build exercise into your routine the way you do anything else in your life
Get some sunshine
Walk or take a bicycle vs the car, you’ll be amazed at how much more movement you will get into your day when you do.
Now if you're already in an exercise routine that is working for you and it happens to be pretty intense, like long distance running, cycling or any form of endurance exercise, then stick with it, but just be sure your mind is not overpowering your body when it comes to knowing when to take it easy, as I commonly this occurring in cases of 'burnout' or adrenal fatigue. Remember always listen to your body because it will tell you loud and clear if your exercise routine is benefiting you.