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How Much Should You Be Exercising?

Like all things food and weight loss related, every time you google something about exercise, there are a thousand different schools of thought about what you should do.

Here is some of the advice I’ve heard:

Exercise 30 minutes a day 5 times a week

Exercise 12 minutes 4-5 times a week if it’s HIIT (high intensity interval training)

Exercise 60 minutes a day 3-4 times a week

So…how much should you be exercising?

exercise

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this question, I want to share a bit of my own exercise history (because I’m at sort of a stagnant place myself, so I’m shifting my exercise patterns, as well!)

Here is my exercise history the last 10 years (abridged version)

  • From age 16 to 26, I was a treadmill and elliptical slave. (Meaning I didn’t lift weights, I just did cardio: 45 minutes 5-6 times a week)
  • Age 27 hit and I was like “I freaking HATE the elliptical, why am I doing this again?!” and I phased out of going to the gym. I went hiking as much as I could, did lots of yoga and ran outside.
  • This continued to age 30, when my significant other introduced me to Crossfit. I fell in love with it, because it was the first time I wasn’t bored out of my mind working out.
  • I did Crossfit for 3 years and got burned out. I had some adrenal issues and wasn’t feeling the intensity of it anymore.
  • For the past year or so, I tried trail running and got back into running (kind of). Also tried Orange Theory Fitness for the last few months. I’ve been “trying” to fall in love with it, but just can’t quite get on board. Some people LOVE it. I find it challenging to work out for a solid 60 minutes (Crossfit work outs were 8-22 minutes-ish).

And that brings me to today. I’m at a place where I don’t know what I want to do next. (AKA I want to just do yoga all the time and think that’s not “enough” exercise).

The truth is, we ALL are conditioned to believe that if we’re not sweating, if we’re not out of breath and our heart isn’t pumping, if we don’t feel exhausted and like we got in a “great” work out…we don’t feel like it “counts”. 

(I’ll totally admit that I’m as guilty as anyone else thinking this way!)

The concept that exercise can be something like walking, tai chi, yoga, stretching, moving, dancing or any other gentle movement is almost preposterous. None of these fit into our paradigm of what we think exercise “should” be.

But, like so many things on this journey, what if we redefined what it meant to exercise?

It doesn’t mean “no pain, no gain”, it doesn’t mean push harder until you’re about to collapse and it doesn’t mean that you have to burn 1000 calories in your MyFitnessPal in order for it to count. 

So, the real question I want you to ask yourself is not “how much should I be exercising?” but “what is my intention behind exercise?”

This changes the game completely.

When our motivation changes, it becomes easy to exercise. If our motivation is movement, fun, enjoyment, feeling alive, and a way to de-stress…it becomes a no brainer to exercise.

When I ask myself what my intention is behind going to Orange Theory Fitness, that sneaky voice in the back of my head says “Well, it’s an intense workout and the holidays are coming up. You should probably work out harder so you can eat more of the holiday goodies and not feel as bad…”

That sneaky voice also thinks I could maybeeee (*just maybe!) lose a few pounds.

Now. Is that a sustainable reason to motivate me to exercise? Nope. Because (**confession) I have pressed snooze every. single. day. the last two weeks in the morning to get up to exercise. I kinda dread going…

Red Flag Alert!

If you dread doing whatever it is you’re doing, it will NOT be sustainable.

Please note that not everyone dreads doing a hard workout. Some people love HIIT training and long runs and intense workouts. I did at one point. But at the current stage of my life, I need something different.

That is what I want you to remember. That your MOTIVATION behind exercise is the most important. If it’s not enjoyable, if you hate doing it, if you dread every second of the time spent exercising…you’ll never make it something you do for the long haul. 

Ask yourself honestly what your intentions are behind exercise (OR if you aren’t exercising, why not? Is your motivation to lose weight and you shut down because you dread doing it?).

How can you find something that you enjoy for the sheer fact that it feels awesome to MOVE your body?

Share with me in the comments below 🙂

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6 comments

  • This is so relevant to me right now. I lost weight with a commercial company whilst taking up running . To my total surprise the app I used (zombies run) was fun enough that I got over the “hardness” of it and really enjoy it! I am unbelievably slow but honestly found it fun.

    Anyway, I lost nearly 4st, decided it’d do, got a new job and timings mean I stopped running. Of course, I’ve put on most of the weight and now I’m ashamed, annoyed and also disillusioned with dieting.

    However, I’ve just started running again (with zombies run) and found that again I’m enjoying it. So, I’m back to aiming for 3x a week as conveniently some pockets of kid free time have materialised. Honestly, my aim is to have head space, feel happier, tone up my core and I know that I feel more like eating well when the above happens.

  • I walk to work. since I live close I go home for lunch. it adds up to 20 minutes of walking not work related. I’m on my feet the whole eight hours or more. since I work as a meat wrapper there is a good deal of lifting and cleaning built into my day. especially on delivery days.

  • I’m 25 and have never been an exerciser. It haunts me. I like doing activities (ie playing frisbee, playing tennis) but every time I go to move by body I instantly connect it to my weight and needing to lose weight because I know I’ve never been an exerciser. I really desire to exercise not only for my health, but to change my body. However, I get so much anxiety around exercise that every time I get myself to do a HIIT workout, spinning, or sprints, I end up breaking down and crying and go into panic because all I can think about is my weight! Its torture. Since college, I’ve gained weight and my weight is now going into the BMI overweight category and it’s really starting to upset me. But my mind tells me “who are you trying to fool, you’re never going to change.” I’m not a huge overeater but I recognize that I have issues with food and exercise because both give me extreme anxiety. I am dying for a psychological change because I know it roots from something deeper. Sorry to vent, your article made me think. Thanks for the article, very helpful 🙂

  • Of course 🙂 What if you connected movement to doing what your body loves to do? Our bodies naturally want to move (and we’ve learned to connect exercise to weight loss…so we can unlearn it too!). See where you can make one small goal to move because it feels GOOD to stretch or dance or play tennis or frisbie!

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