Active minutes are the main driver of your fitness. I have tried to find ways around it, but it is simple. The more time you can spend exercising the better, as long as you can adequately recover. The American Guidelines for Physical Activity say that people should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (weight training, brisk walking, leisurely bike riding, hiking, dancing, jogging, etc) a week to enjoy the health benefits. And from there more is better.
Consistency is Better than Intensity
I know that some will immediately argue that if you do more intense exercise, you can get faster results. And that is true…to a point. The guidelines also say you can do 75 minutes of vigorous activity and enjoy benefits as well. I wholeheartedly agree, but I would say that vigorous levels of activity are also much harder to recover from. Think of a fast-paced basketball game, or high intensity interval training.
Everyone should do some vigorous activity weekly, but I want to posit the idea that moderate levels of physical activity are much easier to recover from, and much easier to do in bulk. I was under the impression for many years that I could just do intense exercise and be fit. It never worked. Every time in my life where I have been fit, it has been because of moderate activity in high volumes. This isn’t the time to skimp on the time investment. Vigorous activity will have much higher injury rates and be much less sustainable. Think about it. When do most football and basketball players retire? Around age 35-40. This should show you that vigorous level intensity is not wholly sustainable, especially as we get older. But, you could go to any 5k and see people in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond still putting up good numbers.
What is important is that we workout consistently. Thirty minutes three times a week is a good start. Start at a conversational tone, and then build your way up. Phil Maffetone’s approach to cardio is a good baseline to build off of. We don’t want to leave ourselves out of breath more than maybe once or twice a week. High level efforts require longer recovery times, and much higher risks of injury.
Allow Adequate Recovery
I can get any healthy person to do thirty minutes of moderate pace cardio six days a week and they should recover just fine with good nutrition. I could also throw in two days of weight training and they’ll do fine. If I tried to get a person to do high intensity interval training even four days a week, they would very quickly begin to accumulate fatigue.
How do we know when we are recovered? This is where technology has given us a great opportunity. With a device like an Oura Ring, we can see our daily levels of recovery via our HRV scores, resting heart rate, and body temperature. If we exercise intelligently we can expect to see modest rises in these scores as the weeks and months go by.
In conclusion, always remember that if we want to be fit for life, we have to train consistently and intelligently. Don’t be lured by quick results. Look for results that can hold you in good stead for the years and decades to come. Thanks for reading!