There are five modifiable lifestyle factors that are key to optimal health and longevity. In no particular order, they are diet, exercise, sleep, mindset, and relationships. Exercise is one that people tend to either love or hate. For optimal health, it’s important to find the right quantity and quality of exercise.
Too much exercise isn’t good for you. It can actually create more waste products (called free radicals) than your body can handle, leading to damage to DNA and the mitochondria (the energy producers of our cells). It can also be too stressful on your body, leading to hormonal imbalances, a suppressed immune system, and bone loss.
Too little exercise is also harmful. Heart disease is more common in those who don’t exercise, even in those who have no other risk factors. Too little exercise also leads to an increased likelihood of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
So like Goldilocks searching for the perfect temperature of porridge, it’s important to find an exercise routine that isn’t too much, isn’t too little, but just right.
Here are Dr. Libby’s Top Ten Tips for Exercise:
Tip 1 → Ensure you are getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.
This is the recommendation of the American Heart Association. Certainly, this will be much greater for many, but if you aren’t here, this is where to start.
Moderate-intensity exercise can be perceived by noticing that your breath quickens, but you are not out of breath, you develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes, and you can carry on a conversation but you can’t sing. During vigorous activity, your breathing is deep and rapid, you begin sweating after about one minute, and you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
Tip 2 → Strength train at least two times per week.
As we age, we lose muscle and bone. It’s just a fact. To fight this, strength training is crucial. It is recommended by the American Heart Association that you train all major muscle groups two times per week. This can be accomplished using free weights, weight machines, or your body weight. Aim to do a single set of each exercise using a weight or resistance band to tire your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions.
Tip 3 → Get down on the ground and get back up every single day.
In CrossFit, we call this a burpee. It doesn’t have to look like a burpee. It doesn’t have to be pretty. But it is essential to be able to get up and down. This seems simple, but if you don’t use it, you lose it, and this happens more quickly than you’d think.
Unfortunately, there are many people who find themselves in a situation where they physically can’t do this. If you talk to any firefighter or paramedic, they will tell you countless stories of being called to people’s homes to do nothing more than pick them up off of the floor. It is so much easier to prevent getting to this place than to fix it after it has already happened.
Tip 4 → Make it fun!
If you hate running, don’t run. If you hate spinning, don’t spin. Find something that you actually enjoy doing and choose that. There are so many options, and there isn’t one right answer, so don’t force yourself into a mold that someone else has created. Pick something you enjoy and go with that.
Tip 5 → Grab a buddy.
Many of us struggle to stay accountable to ourselves. However, when we are scheduled to meet up with a partner or group for a hike, bike ride, or lifting session, we will show up rain or shine to avoid disappointing our friends. If this is you, identify a friend that you can consistently meet and exercise with. One key aspect of optimal health is becoming a person who honors your commitments, not just to others but to yourself too!
Tip 6 → Stretch, stretch, stretch.
It’s important to not only get the exercise in but to take care of your body so it can recover for the next workout. If you want to maintain your mobility as you age, you need to work on it. When you are young, mobility and flexibility are often a freebie that requires no attention or work. As you age, it isn’t guaranteed!
Tip 7 → Start NOW.
There is no need to wait until Monday, the first of the month, or the first of the year. Remember that old Chinese proverb—“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Start today.
Tip 8 → Try a Tabata.
This is a great option if you are short on time. High-intensity Interval Training (“HIIT” for short) is a highly effective way to get maximal results in minimal time. A Tabata workout is a 4-minute HIIT workout. You alternate between 20-second intervals of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of eight rounds. Of course, do a warm-up first! You can do this type of workout anywhere with no equipment. Just pick an exercise, set a timer, and go. Jumping jacks, air squats, jogging in place, push-ups, sit-ups, planks, or jump rope. You can also add some light weights. The options are endless.
Tip 9 → Get outdoors.
Not necessarily every day, but some days it’s nice to get out of the house, out of the gym, and get some fresh air. Exercising outdoors will not only enhance your vitamin D production from the natural sun exposure but also people tend to exercise longer and burn more calories. Plus it’s free!
Tip 10 → Schedule rest days.
Too much of anything is not a good thing. Take at least one day off each week to allow your body total rest and recovery. Remember, we aren’t in this for fast results but for forever results.
If you want optimal health and to truly live your best life, exercise needs to be a regular part of your week. Having a powerful WHY helps with staying motivated long-term.
I exercise to strengthen my muscles and bones, reduce my risk of chronic disease, manage stress, increase my confidence, and improve my overall outlook on life. Maintaining my ideal body weight is an added bonus—icing on the cake.
Remember small consistent actions repeated consistently over time lead to huge results. What’s your why? What is one small change you can make today to improve your exercise and improve your health?
You’ve got this!
P.S — Register for my 12-week program The Energy Accelerator. This program will help you take back your energy and shift from surviving to thriving so that you can invest fully in yourself and your relationships.