We are constantly bombarded with media, magazines and infomercials that seem to reinforce the idea that more exercise is better, but is it?

What is Exercise?

Exercise is a stimulus brought about by a series of muscular contractions that forces the body to change. No doubt, exercise is the one thing you can do to help virtually every system of your body. However, the common assumption is that all exercise is good and the more the better. That said, it is important to understand that exercise is not only a stimulus, but also a stressor. The actual act of exercise temporarily weakens us and the body perceives this as something negative.

While we assume the change we’ve stimulated with exercise will always be positive, that’s not always the case. From seemingly inconsequential symptoms such as inflamed joints and sore muscles to indisputable evidence like decreased strength output, chronic injuries, and telomere deterioration, which influences biological aging, too much exercise can be harmful.

The point to be made here is that too much exercise is certainly possible and there exists a sort of therapeutic index for exercise. In other words, there exists an approximate dose of exercise (stimulus), which achieves the greatest benefit (response) without unacceptable side-effects.  That’s ultimately what we’re looking for.

Stimulus and Response …. How Long and How Often?

If exercise is a stimulus, then by definition there has to be a response. That response is dictated by the intensity, effort, frequency, and duration of the workout.

  • Intensity = the degree to which muscle fibers are recruited and fatigued reflected by force production i.e. strength.
  • Effort = the degree to which the energy systems are taxed and glycogen stores are depleted often reflected by max heart rate (HR) i.e. conditioning.
  • Frequency = how often exercise should be performed.
  • Duration = how long a workout should last.

Intensity and effort are inversely proportional to frequency and duration.

  • The greater the intensity (muscle fatigue), the less frequently you need to exercise as the body needs more time to recover.
  • The greater the effort (glycogen depletion and heart rate elevation), the shorter the workout as the body only has so much glycogen to fuel the work.

What makes things even more interesting is that the higher the exercise threshold you reach, either with intensity, effort or both, the greater the exercise effects stimulated within the body.

So herein lies the rub when it comes to more exercise. Greater intensity exercise calls for greater muscle fiber stimulation with greater fatigue. So if we look first and foremost for exercise to deliver consistent improvements in strength, it logically has to be accompanied by adequate recovery.

If we stress our muscles again before they’ve fully recovered from their previous bout of exercise, we won’t see additional progress. So if more frequent exercise doesn’t elicit greater strength gains, not to mention other health and performance benefits, is it really better?

Similar to higher intensity exercise, higher effort reveals the same type of results. If additional bouts of exercise provide no additional benefit, yet yield a higher risk for burnout, injury or sustainability, is it really better?

So, clearly, better exercise does not mean more exercise, does it? Here’s what better exercise will do for you:

  • Improved Strength
  • Improved Cardiovascular Fitness
  • Improved Blood Sugar Control
  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity
  • Decreased Inflammation and Blood Pressure
  • Increased Bone Mineral Density
  • Improved Fat Burning Capabilities
  • Improved Mood, Sleep and Energy

….and so much more

The Exercise Coach has been around for 20 years, delivering 20-minute workouts to our clients with much success. Exercise doesn’t need to be too long, too boring or too frequent. It can be sustainable, achievable and doable while enjoying the well-earned benefits of what better exercise can is all about.

Amanda is the owner of The Exercise Coach in Scottsdale. The Exercise Coach is a health and fitness franchise that offers one-on-one fitness and nutrition coaching using proprietary robotic equipment that delivers maximum fitness and fat loss results with only two, 20 minute smart workouts a week. Amanda graduated as a Fulbright Scholar from Harvard University and spent most of her career in public policy and government.