With easy access to vast amounts of information, the health and exercise field can be confusing to navigate. Last month we discussed how fitness myths might be preventing you from getting the best workout and subsequent results. Just as it is essential to debunk these myths, it’s also important to note common fitness facts that often get overlooked. This month we will focus on fitness truths that will allow you to develop the most effective and efficient exercise program.
Truth #1: A Short Workout is NOT a Waste of Time
A “lack of time” remains one of the most commonly cited barriers for engaging in regular exercise. The good news is, even if you only have half an hour a day to spare or a mere 10 minutes, you have enough time to enhance your health and fitness. More and more studies are pointing to the power of short workouts, with some even suggesting that these quick sessions could be better for you. According to research findings from the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center, people had consistently lower blood pressure readings on average when they split their daily walk into three 10-minute segments rather than a continuous 30-minute stroll (Bhammar, Angadi & Gaesser, 2014).
While this may be enough to keep up your general health, you will need to increase the intensity of your workouts in order to see improvements in fitness and weight loss. One way to do this is through high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, which is a great way to cut down on the length of your workouts and still get results. Through this form of training, you can accomplish an effective workout in as little as 20 minutes (Gibale, Little, MacDonald, & Hawley, 2012). HIIT is characterized by short, intermittent bursts of vigorous exercise interspersed with phases of rest or low-intensity activity. Examples include intervals of various work or rest ratios, speed work, plyometrics, Tabata training, and explosive movements. HIIT can serve as an effective alternative to traditional endurance training, producing similar or even superior physiological and performance improvements with considerably less time commitment (Burgomaster at al., 2008). Therefore, you do not need to spend hours in the gym to experience results.
Truth #2: You Can Work Out ANYTIME During the Day
"Is there a best time of day to exercise?" is a question that frequently gets asked. Unfortunately, the answer to this varies, as studies tell us there are benefits to working out at different times throughout the day. Research on exercise and time of day is growing but still limited and not without controversy.
For many people, a morning workout plan is best because it negates the opportunity for other distractions to get in the way. As the day progresses, excuses tend to pile up and eventually workouts are skipped altogether. Additionally, if you are looking to lose weight and improve overall health, studies tend to favor the morning. Women who engaged in morning exercise boosted their metabolism and increased their overall physical activity throughout the day (Hanlon, Larson, Bailey, & LeCheminant, 2012).
If you find yourself constantly hitting the snooze button to postpone a morning workout or feel sluggish during this time, fortunately for you, working out later in the day also has proven benefits. Your body temperature increases in the late afternoon, which in turn increases enzyme activity and muscular function (Teo, Newton, & McGuigan, 2011). This allows for peak strength output and aerobic endurance from about 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Research aside, the best time of day to exercise is whenever you will actually do it! You need to find a time in your schedule where you can stay consistent with your training. One way to do this is by listening to your body and knowing when you perform your best. This will help you decide if morning, afternoon or evening workouts are the ideal time for you. Energy and attitude are keys to having great workouts and making exercise a habit.
Truth #3: Your Weight Does NOT Tell the Whole Story
One of the most frustrating things about trying to lose weight and get fit is that it can become a battle with the scale. Hopeful anticipation can quickly turn to disappointment if the number on the scale does not mirror your hard work. A scale that does not seem to budge can railroad any motivation to continue healthy behaviors and a workout program. The good news is your weight does not always reflect your fitness level, and there are other ways to measure your progress.
As previously discussed, muscle is more dense and takes up less space than fat, and it is natural to see an initial increase in weight when beginning a strength training program. Remember that building muscle will improve your metabolic rate and allow you to decrease fat mass in the long run. A leaner, more muscular person will often weigh more than a larger person with more body fat.
Anthropometric measurements are methods to determine body fat distribution, predict body fat percentage and indicate health risk. These include circumference measurements, skin fold measurements, body mass index, and height and weight. These measurements may be a more appropriate gauge of progress in your fitness and body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat) than your weight. Circumference measurements can be taken on any site of the body you want to track or change. The two most common areas are the waist and hips, but the arm, forearm, thigh and calf are all other measurement options. For accurate results, it is important to be consistent with the location of your measurement site, or sites, and the procedures you follow.
You do not need to avoid the scale altogether. Weighing on a regular basis can give you a sense of accountability and is an easy, quick way to keep yourself in check. If you choose to use a scale, follow the 4 S’s of sameness for the most accurate assessment of progress:
- Same time of day, on the
- Same day of the week, wearing the
- Same clothing, and using the
- Same scale each time.
Bhammar, DM., Angadi, SS., & Gaesser GA. (2014) Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44 (12), 2270-2276.
Burgomaster KA., Howart, KR., Phillips, SM., Rakobowchuk, M., Macdonald, MJ., McGee, SL., & Gibala, MJ. (2008) Similar metabolic adaptions during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 586, 151-160.
Gilba, MJ., Little, JP., MacDonald, MJ., & Hawley, JA. (2012) Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease. The Journal Physiology, 590 (5), 1077-1084.
Hanlon, B., Larson, MJ., Bailey, BW., & LeCheminant, JD. (2012) Neural response to pictures of food after exercise in normal-weight and obese women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44 (10), 1864-1870.
Teo, W., Newton, MJ, & McGuigan, MR. (2011) Circadian rhythms in exercise performance: implications for hormonal and muscular adaptation. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 10, 600-606.