Numerous scientific medical studies confirm the effectiveness of regular exercise to counteract many of the world’s leading causes of disease. Most of us know that regular exercise is a ‘must’ for a healthy life. However, just because we are exercising, doesn’t mean our bodies are necessarily benefiting from the type of exercises we undertake. On contrary, some exercises coupled with poor body awareness, could lead to feeling constantly exhausted, and even injury. So do all exercises benefit us equally? If not, how do we pick what is right for us?
The importance of body awareness
In most instances, body awareness is half the answer. Each individual will have movement restrictions and muscle imbalances that determine the type of exercise, and the level of intensity suitable for them. The key is to understand yourbody.
With strength training for example, effectiveness does not mean heavy weights or extraordinary numbers of reps, it is about being aware of the muscles you are targeting and activating through the exercise, making sure you are not overcompensating with other muscles or compromising on form. Lifting weights that are too heavy for your body makes it almost impossible to engage the correct muscles and maintain good posture; the same goes for doing too many reps. Continually doing so could be a formula for injuries.
When strength training it is always best to start using weights you can lift comfortably while keeping correct technique. It is interesting to note that in classic Pilates exercises, 8-12 reps is often recommended for each movement. 8-12 is considered to be the optimal number of repetition to challenge the muscles without overworking them, or compromising on form and control. In Pilates, regardless of which muscles you are working on, your core, is always engaged and active to give you stability.
Going hard and fast isn’t always the best strategy when it comes to exercising for fitness. Too much exercise, or too high intensity which your body isn’t ready for, can put stress on the body. This combined with other types of stress, either physical, emotional or work related, can cause your adrenal glands to work much harder. When your adrenal glands become overwhelmed with producing hormones in response to stress, a number of things could happen to your body, including fatigue, body aches, low blood pressure, light headedness etc.
This is where you need to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.
Balance out hard(er) sessions with less intense exercises, such as Yoga or a gentler Pilates session.
They give your bodies the chance to have a break while giving you the opportunity to manage stress from other areas of life.
Mix it up!
What is the mix of exercises that are needed to keep us healthy? Is there a magic formula? The Harvard Medical School recommends a mix of strengthening, cardiovascular, stretching, and balance exercises to stay active and healthy. This means we can’t expect to be fit and healthy from doing one type of exercise alone, our bodies need a variety of different movements and training formats to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.
What does this mean for you?
If you have been doing lots of running, which is great for cardiovascular health, consider adding in some strength training as well as Yoga to get the stretching and balancing.
Similarly, if you practice only Yoga, then perhaps it would be beneficial to add in some cardiovascular and strength training to your program.
Our 8-week Leap program allows you to dip your toes and try out all the different classes we offer – with your very own personalised training plan so you get the maximum benefits for all your hard work.
With regards to the amount of exercise we need to do, the Australia Department of Health recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, as well as muscle strengthening exercise every week. [See our article on What exercise, and how much, should you do?]
This equates to 30-40 minutes of exercises on most days of the week, and making 2 of these days strength training.
There is no guideline for stretching and balance exercises, they are on a case-by-case basis.
But let’s face it, most of us probably don’t stretch enough given the amount of time we spend in one stationery position, so it would be reasonable to say stretching could be done daily.