I really enjoy answering questions about exercise: how much, how often, how hard, what kind? While it really is true that any exercise that does not injure you provides some health benefit, you can really take far beyond that to get more results from your hard work! Many of us have had to change our workout routines completely from where they were Pre-Covid, myself included. With so many options out there, what should you look for? Here are a few crucial tenets to guide you:
Your body is the best machine.
There are many pieces of exercise equipment out there, but these should be add-ons for a specific reason after you have a well-established body weight routine. Until then, all you need is some empty floor space in front of a screen that has access to the internet (YouTube). Start with body weight exercise for 30 minutes and do this four days per week. Think of two exercise routines, Day 1 and Day 2. Perform Day 1 routine, then Day 2 routine, then have a rest day. Then repeat. This will take 6 days. On the seventh day, do a body weight higher intensity interval routine. The usual days are mostly resistance exercise, for building strength, with some conditioning. The 7th day is to challenge your cardiovascular fitness to a new level. Body weight exercises are pluripotent on YouTube and require no equipment and can be modified for all levels.
Common concerns with regard to body weight resistance exercise are orthopedic issues. Usually, these are the shoulders, spine, and knees. For the shoulders, avoid exercises which raise the arms over the head. Warm up the rotator cuff before EVERY workout. When you perform any exercise, be sure you have your shoulders pulled back and down and your scapulae (wingbones) "packed" down. For the spine, perform glute and hamstring exercises while lying on your back or perform single leg deadlifts with no weight. For core exercises with spine issues, perform "dead bug" and "bird dog" exercises instead of crunches or planks. For knee issues, instead of lunges or squats, perform straight leg lifts. There is an entire school of thought that those who have orthopedic issues especially should get "Strong First" as the stronger the muscles are, the less strain on the joints.
Body weight exercise, whether it is cardiovascular exercise or resistance exercise, without equipment, has the benefits of requiring you to move your body as it was naturally intended, needing to use multiple muscle groups at the same time, and leads to improved
neurocognitive benefits, fall prevention as well as physical benefits of exercise. So, skip the equipment and rely on yourself!
Target your intensity.
The old adages such as "Go hard or go home," "As many reps as possible," "Your body will fail before you do," "No pain, no gain," may have been fine for the athletic team locker room, but are not evidence based for an exercise program for weight management. Know your body type and your target exercise intensity for what you are trying to accomplish. Here are some general statements, but individuals can respond differently than expected (bodies don't read textbooks:), so always follow the principle of measuring your response to a program and managing variables. This is where a coach or guide (possible Rainier Medical), can help. Here are some categories of body types and how each may respond to different exercise types:
Endomorph- this body type tends to have excess muscle and excess fat and a higher amount of excess weight. This is traditionally thought of as the "stocky", "big-boned", or "athletic" body type. With this body type, common pitfalls in people trying to lose weight are that exercise comes easily to this person, and so the intensity and volume is too high. An individual may be strong and very fit, and therefore able to perform more advanced resistance exercise and higher intensity exercise. While this is good for cardiovascular fitness and is very fun and gives a great sense of accomplishment, studies show high intensity exercise can impair and prevent weight loss, probably by releasing cortisol, increasing muscle and increasing hunger. I advise people to think of a 6 month "out season" in which they reduce the intensity of exercise to that equivalent to a brisk walk, for 50 minutes a day. It is challenging to reduce exercise, but the goal is to reduce excess weight and then go back to whatever the preferred exercise is at a healthier weight. At that time, people may find that their range of motion is improved or joint pain is resolved.
Ectomorph or Mesomorph - these body types tends to have low or average muscle mass. For people who have excess fat and these body types, the common pitfall is to not cultivate sufficient resistance exercise to preserve the muscle they have as they are trying to lose body fat. Since losing body fat requires a calorie deficit, the weight that is lost can be either fat (preferred), or muscle (deleterious). In the above example of the endomorph, it is actually good to lose excess muscle, since it can cause joint problems or lung problems, which is why we want to reduce resistance exercise. But, in these body types, losing muscle means the end body fat percentage will be higher and metabolism will be slower, and insulin resistance may be higher. Since most people think of doing "cardio"to lose weight, and typically 20% of weight lost will be lean body mass, it is important to cultivate proper resistance exercise to preserve lean body mass while losing weight. The "holy grail" is to build muscle if you are low while losing fat. Some people will tell you that is not possible, but it can be in certain situations. Rainier Medical published a series of patient outcomes in which muscle loss was half of average using its protocols of diet and exercise.
In summary, know your body type, trust and invest in your body, and target your intensity and type of exercise for your individual program. If you need guidance, let me know!
This is the photo of a body composition of a person who had a weight loss plateau at 143.8 lb with 44.5 lbs of skeletal muscle mass and a body fat percentage of 41.9%. She stopped doing high intensity cardiovascular exercise and her body weight went down 2.3 lbs, her muscle went up 2.7 lbs, and her body fat when down 4.1%.