How much exercise
is too much?
This week I will share some exercises I found helped me to tone up and lose weight, especially during the first couple of years after my initial weight loss. I will also discuss how being fit in mind and body is better than being obsessed with exercise while stressing over the scale.
Fit or fanatic?
My healthy lifestyle inspiration (as I mentioned in my first entry), Suzanne Somers, addresses exercise by telling her readers who are on her eating plan to "be fit, not fanatic." She encourages "Somersizers" to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, in any form: walking, running, dancing, etc. While this is quite a simple approach to fitness, it sure was a step up for someone like me, who hated going to the gym.
When I was 17 and had lost most of the weight, I began using my sister's manual elliptical at home for 15 minutes whenever I had the chance and motivation. I tried to keep this up at least three times a week, and as I got used to being a bit more active, I increased the time I was on the elliptical as well as the resistance. When I realized working out wasn't that hard and could actually be fun with good music, I began going to the gym at my university.
Despite some back issues I had, I made going to the gym a part of my new, healthy routine. I stuck to machines like the elliptical, which had easy, controlled movement, something my doctor and physiotherapist highly recommended. I also used controlled weight training machines and light free weights to tone my legs and arms and to build lean muscle mass. Slowly, going to the gym became a necessary and enjoyable part of my week. I even challenged myself and did something I was too intimidated to do as a child: I signed up for some fitness classes.
I decided I needed more variety in my workouts, so I looked for low-impact fitness classes that focused on toning and increasing my core strength (something that's important for those with back and joint pain). I tried yoga classes and low-intensity step classes. This week, I tried a yoga-lates class (which combines yoga and some Pilates), which is excellent for core strength. All classes as well as my regular gym routine definitely helped me to tone up faster. Seeing my body jiggle less was only a bonus, of course!
How much exercise?
Again, the question of how much exercise is required remains. I believe I lost the weight and continue to lose weight and tone up with the same approach as Suzanne Somers: Exercise is a necessary part of my weekly routine (at least two to three times a week) because it makes me feel productive, energetic and happier. I'm not just saying that to be preachy or to discourage you by saying there's no gain without pain (or in this case, loss, not gain), but when it comes to a balanced life — where your mind, belly and jeans are all happy at the same time — exercise is a must.
If you find engaging in physical activity just twice a week is enough for you to feel productive, more toned and happy, that's great. If you're like me and require a little bit more — even if it's simply an after-dinner walk or dancing around the house as you clean — that's great too. As I always say, it's all about balance. Find something you will make fit into your routine (and I mean "make fit," not make excuses for not fitting into your day). To ensure you make the effort to keep up with your exercise, choose an activity you genuinely enjoy. If that means only cycling classes, yoga or dance classes, that's perfectly fine. If you prefer to go to the gym with your iPod or even take a walk a few times a week, that's great too.
Now get off the computer, and get moving!