When it comes to exercise…less can be more

By Scott Searcy

How much do I need to exercise? 
This is one of the most common questions asked of me as I work with folks making life changes. What makes the question hard is that . . . 

How much do I need to exercise? 
This is one of the most common questions asked of me as I work with folks making life changes. What makes the question hard is that by the time they start asking the question, they have been given the wrong answer for some time. If you have clicked on anything exercise related in the past you know what I mean. Exercise is good for you, and more of it is better. Not only is this said to be true, but you should read up on exercise, be interested in exercise topics, dress up like exercising people and fully embrace and like exercise. Now, if the above is true to your authentic self, great, this article is not for you. Know I am speaking to those out there who want to be healthier, but would like to give the least amount of time to exercise as possible. Those of us who want to move better, have less pain, experience more energy and increase their flexibility…but who do not enjoy the all-or-nothing mindset of modern fitness.  
What if, through honest research, you could get almost all the benefits of exercise without having to “become” a fitness junkie?   
The data says that you can. “Effect of reduced training frequency on muscular strength” (Graves et al 1988). “Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. 2016). In fact, for those of us who are not interested in bodybuilding or elite level competitive athletics, doing more at the gym may provide more results, but not that much more. We have seen that with as little as one or two bouts of exercise per week you can enjoy the majority of the metabolic, cardiovascular and muscular changes associated with a more robust program.  Lots of really cool science is believed to go into why this is true, but for our purposes you may take it on faith that it is true. 
Now, what to do with this data? First, remember that sustainability is one of the key controls of all this research. Doing nothing will regress your health in time. Instead, think into why you want to get healthier? What are you excited about being able to do better? Don’t be swayed into the obvious cursory rationale, especially if you have tried that in the past and failed. Think mindfully into yourself and decide why it is important that you work towards a healthier lifestyle. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or trainer. The more individualized and truly honest your reasons are for exercise, the more likely you will be to maintain adherence to the program you choose. Do not worry about whether they are ‘good enough’ or ‘right’. As long as they are yours that is all that matters. I have seen powerful ‘whys’ ranging from ‘I need to exercise to avoid chronic pain and a lifetime with wheelchair assistance’ to ‘I want bigger calves’. Both were strong enough for the individuals who wrote them, and in each case, the results were successful and long lasting. 
Armed with your worthy why, you know can look to your weekly schedule to see what time commitment we are looking at. This is where the research above allows us to confidently create a fitness plan to address almost any goal within almost any schedule. Is it twice a week; is it five times a week? Can we plan thirty minutes or an hour plus? Again, be honest and decide what time is affordable. Science has long supported that no matter the time allotted, you can do great. Now you do you. 

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