It’s National Health and Physical Education Day, so let’s clarify some exercise myths to get you achieving your fitness goals.
First things first, it’s very important you know that it’s not possible to decrease body fat AND increase muscle mass at the same time. So make sure your goals are realistic so you achieve the best results. Different fitness goals require different types of exercise that use different muscle groups, nerve pathways and energy systems.
With any weight loss, muscle or strength goals it’s important to remember that it takes time and it’s different for each and every individual. A good diet and exercise routine needs to be consistent for effective results to be seen. When I say ‘good diet’ I don’t mean cutting out carbs (carbs are your friend!!!) or loading up on protein. I mean eat a well-rounded diet from all 5 food groups rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals!
So I’ve broken it up into the 4 common exercise goals of increasing aerobic fitness, muscle strength, muscle bulk and weight loss. Each has very different recommendations so make sure you have a clear fitness goal in mind.
If your goal is to increase AEROBIC FITNESS you should be doing approx. 5 days of moderate OR 3 days of vigorous cardio sessions per week ranging from 30-60 min moderate OR 20-60 min vigorous exercise EACH session. This can be done through interval training (shorter bursts), continuous or fartlek training (run, walk, run).
If increased MUSCLE STRENGTH is what you’re aiming for, a high resistance low reps approach is best. Each major muscle group (legs, arms, back, abs) should be trained 2-3 sessions per week. There is no specific duration recommended, however, heavier weights should be used. 8-12 repetitions per exercise with 2-3 sets per exercise is ideal. As strength improves a gradual increase in reps, sets and resistance weight is best.
For a goal of increasing MUSCLE BULK, it must include high volume, high intensity and high resistance. 6-12 reps of each exercise is recommended completing more than 3 sets each exercise with short rest intervals of less than 90 seconds. Similar to muscle strength, reps, sets and resistance weight can all be increased over time. For muscle gain 2-4kg per month is a realistic goal if correct nutritional foods are consumed.
Burning fat can only occur with aerobic exercise (cardio), so if your goals is WEIGHT LOSS then 5-7 cardio session per week at a moderate to low intensity is best to reach this goal. There isn’t a set recommended duration for each session, however, the longer the better is suggested. A combination of long duration, low intensity and high frequency is the key to reaching your target weight. Muscles learn to burn more fat with training, so don’t give up, persistence is the key!
The nutritionist in me again has to reiterate that these goals are best achieved with good nutrition. You can’t out exercise a bad diet! I’m a big believer in the 30% exercise, 70% diet concept, what you eat is important.
Note: I’m a Nutrition student not yet with a formal qualification, this article should be taken as a suggestion and you should seek professional guidance from a qualified Nutritionist or Dietitian before making drastic exercise changes.
Halse. R. (2017). Training: Basic Principles [Power Point slides].
Calton. E. (2017). Nutrition for muscle gain, weight loss and condensation for supplement use [Power Point slides].