Finding the time to exercise can be difficult, but most of us try to fit it into our busy schedules. Work commitments, family responsibilities, and just plain old procrastination—we all have some sort of excuse for not choosing to go to the gym. But when we do find the time, are we working out as much as we should? Are we maximizing the little time we allocate to exercise? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself, as you may be inefficiently utilizing your precious gym time.
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend two and a half hours a week of moderate exercise. Ideally, if you could spread this over time, it would be about 30 minutes, five times a week of moderate exercise which includes activities such as jogging, ballroom dancing, biking, or swimming. If you can hold a conversation with the person next to you while doing a strenuous activity, that is considered moderate intensity.
While working out five times a week may not seem appealing to some, recent evidence in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that performing 150 minutes on the weekend provides similar health benefits to spreading out fitness across the week. However, this sudden spurt of increased activity may expose you to overuse injuries from not regularly being active throughout the week.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to reduce the amount of exercise time required to about half of what was originally recommended. This translates to 15 minutes of HIIT being equal to 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. While HIIT may sound appealing, it is important to note that you will need to reach a level where you’re “huffing and puffing” and conversation is difficult. HIIT is generally considered safe, but it is recommended to speak to your doctor if you’re over 40 or have any preexisting condition that may be impacted by the exercise.
There’s really nothing left to say in regards to why you should have some sort of exercise in your life, be it low, moderate, or high intensity. Exercise makes people feel better, look better, and perform better in all aspects of their lives. Irrefutable evidence shows that exercise isn’t just about looking good—it’s about staying healthy both physically and mentally. Exercise can help treat depression, anxiety, and even sleep disturbances. Exercise lowers blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and even lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the frequency of 13 types of cancer, both prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, even help save the United States billions of dollars in medical expenses.
Exercising and getting out there is difficult, but the benefits are just too good to pass up. Find an ideal exercise that is doable for you and make sure you don’t overexert yourself. A popular trick most people use is to find something that is both fun to do and requires a moderate amount of activity.
Related: What causes low and high blood pressure after exercise?