How do I start exercising again, and how much should I do?
You know exercise is good for you, but when you investigate how much you should be doing and how to start, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. If you aren’t exercising as much as you think you should be, you’re not alone. Research shows more than half of Australian adults are not active enough, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get moving. Maybe you’ve been channeling all your time into climbing the corporate ladder or balancing the challenges of bringing up a family, and that’s fine. It is okay if you’ve been away from exercise for a while. What’s important is that you make the decision to make a change.
Many people assume getting back into exercise means you need to make drastic changes. We recommend you don’t. At Strength Nutrition, our clients build up their activity levels using a measured and achievable approach. We also encourage our clients to follow the Australian Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines. Each of these guidelines are backed by science and a rigorous evidence review process that considers the relationship between physical activity and health outcomes. However, it’s important to remember these are guidelines and they need to be understood in context. This means that unless you have already been training regularly, don’t expect to be hitting all the guidelines straight away. So, what exactly are these guidelines and what they might look like for you?
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
Getting started is about just that, getting started.
You should build up your activity levels at a pace that is sustainable. This can be achieved by making incremental changes to your lifestyle. If you are new to exercise, start small. If you go “all out” at the beginning, you will only exhaust yourself and that is not sustainable. The key is to make lifestyle adjustments which improve your health and provide a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment.
Often people can be tempted to set themselves goals which aren’t based on their own usual activity levels. For example, the goal of achieving 10,000 steps a day. If you have a desk job and have been doing an average of 2,000 steps a day, jumping to 10,000 steps might be unsustainable to begin with. Say you reach 6,000 a day, chances are you feel like a failure. But in this instance, you have already tripled your daily activity and should feel proud of their efforts. Before setting yourself goals, take the time to get to understand your current activity levels so you can set realistic goals and gradually increase your activity.
Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
Going from very little activity to being active every day can seem like a steep goal. It can be achievable if you build it into your daily lifestyle and routine.
Sometimes people wait for “the right time” or motivation to get started, but the reality is, you need to plan and be prepared for setbacks. Be realistic that your current lifestyle and schedule will have to shift to accommodate improving your fitness. For clients who struggle to find time to exercise, the turning point can be scheduling it into their calendar. Find a time where you can block out half an hour or an hour where you put your health and fitness as a priority and make it a non-negotiable appointment.
Remember that being active on all days means working in a variety of activities and intensities. Being active can be as simple as leaving your desk at lunchtime to take a walk outside or following a yoga or Pilates tutorial on YouTube.
Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
Any activity is better than none, but targeted training will get more targeted results. Regular strength training will help you to improve your overall health and make everyday tasks easier. It can be used to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength. Strength training also enhances your energy levels, posture, mobility, balance and builds your metabolism.
Different forms of strength training include using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, suspension equipment and your own body weight. It is crucial that you focus on performing the exercise correctly to reduce your risk of injury and maximise results. This can be achieved by working with a Personal Trainer, who will teach you the correct technique and provide you with a program that will boost your results.
The Australian Government recommends taking part in muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days a week. At Strength Nutrition, we would recommend strength training twice a week as a minimum. Research shows that a beginner needs to train two or three times per week to gain the maximum benefit. It is okay to start with one training session for your first week. Ideally, you should look to increase the number of strength training sessions to two or three each week. You also need to factor in resting each muscle group for at least 48 hours to maximise gains in strength and size.
Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
Setting activity goals for each week will allow you to plan out your sessions in a way that fits your schedule and helps you achieve your goals. The above recommendation can be implemented in several ways, but first you need to understand the difference between activity levels.
Moderate intensity activities will take some effort, but you will still be able to talk while doing them. Some examples are a brisk walk, recreational swimming, dancing, golf or household tasks like cleaning windows.
Vigorous intensity activities will make you “huff and puff” and include jogging, fast cycling, many organised sports and lifting, carrying or digging.
Strength training may come under either of the above, depending on where you are at in your fitness level and what exercise, weight and frequency you are completing. These activity goals must be built up to over time and ideally, with supervision or direction from a Personal Trainer.
When planning out your week, it may look like the following.
Approach 1: 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity.
• 2 x 45-minute moderate intensity strength sessions spaced evenly throughout the week. For example, you may choose to train on Tuesday and Friday.
• On at least two other days, incorporate 30+ minutes of cardio or conditioning. For example, go for a brisk walk or a bike ride with the family. Remember, exercise is not limited to the gym, or walking.
Approach 2: 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity.
• 2 x 45-minute high-intensity strength training sessions. Remember to vary your exercises. If your strength session was of a lower intensity, add in some high intensity exercises. For example, playing a team sport or going for a jog.
Tip: even if you are completing 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity in two days, don’t forget that being active every day is still important.
Approach 3: an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
This approach is the most flexible way to hit all the recommendations, such as strength training and keeping active every day. Prioritise and plan your strength training, and then use additional days for other types of exercise, for example:
• 2 x 45-minute strength training sessions, which can be built up to three times a week.
• 2 x brisk walks a week, then add in third, or introduce another activity such as swimming or playing sport.
Tip: when calculating your exercise, remember 10 minutes of vigorous intensity activity is equal to 20 minutes of moderate intensity activity.
When you are planning your exercise regime, it is essential that you enjoy it. Think about what you like doing, try a few new things and then build a plan that is sustainable and tailored to your ability.
If you work with a Personal Trainer, they will develop a plan which sets you up to achieve your goals and help keep you accountable. At Strength Nutrition, we provide each client with a 4-6 week training program which suits their individual ability, preference and schedule.
To find out how we can help you make your health a priority, book a session with us today.