How Much Exercise?

We all know story of Goldilocks and the three bears, but did you know that this story actually holds true for your body as well? I think we can all agree that neither of the extremes are good choices.

According to John Hopkins, never exercising can lead to an increased risk of:

  • coronary artery disease
  • serum lipid abnormalities
  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • obesity
  • colon cancer

Too much exercise is also bad because it will not give your body the proper time to rest and recover. This has the potential to lead to break down of tissue and injuries that could have been avoided. 

three bears

What is your Goldilocks window?
First of all, there is no cookie cutter answer for this, everyone is different and everyone is starting from a different level of fitness. The most important thing you can do when you are first starting out is to find baseline numbers of your strength and endurance. Then based off of these numbers you can progress towards a goal. 
What can you expect when you start exercising again?
If you overdo exercise, you are going to feel DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and you are going to be sore for 24-72 hours. Again, this is when Goldilocks did too much. If you don’t push yourself hard enough (ie the bed was too small) then you are not going to even feel fatigued or tired after the exercise, and because you did not strain the muscle, there will be minimal to no improvement and adaptation. You want to find the workload that results in mild discomfort that lasts for a few hours up to 12 hours. This is a good sign that you fatigued the muscles and the body now has to rebuild bigger and better than before. 
If you overdo it and you are dealing with DOMS, perform light activity to get the blood pumping and to work out the waste products. Do not just sit—this will only prolong the soreness. If the soreness gets worse during each day, if there is unexplained swelling, or if the pain lasts for more than 72 hours, it is time to see your doctor and come in for physical therapy. If you are currently not feeling fatigued or tired it is time to gradually start increasing the workload in order to achieve improvements. 

Here are some general guidelines:

The American Heart Association’s minimal recommendations for cardiovascular exercise says that in a given week you should exercise 5 days for 30 minutes at a moderate level or 15 minutes a day at a vigorous level. These numbers are also supported by Mayo clinic. Notice, that this is their minimum recommendation, it is okay to put in more time than this as long as you a slowly progressing. 
Strength and Power
The American College of Sports Medicine has this to say about resistance exercise: “Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment, two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.” 
They go on to say this about stretching, “Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.”
These three goals are great targets to shoot for as you start 2019. So, get in the gym, find your baselines, and start working towards becoming a heathier version of you. 
1: Cardiovascular: 5 days a week for 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise. 
2: Strength: 2-3 days a week train major muscle groups. 2-4 sets of 8-12, 10-15, or 15-20 reps depending on your goals. 
3: Flexibility: 2-3 days a week. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat until 60 seconds is achieved.
If you have questions on any of this information or if you do not know how to start an exercise program come in and see our team of Physical Therapists. We are here to answer your questions and help you achieve the best you possible. 

Matthew Gordon, PT, DPT, Astym cert., SFMA cert. is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Have a question? Ask an Expert. Call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.