Everyone wants the greatest return on the time spent exercising, and it’s natural to believe that exercising faster and longer with lead to bigger, faster results.
However, doing so without preparing adequately can easily lead to injury. The time spent recovery, possibly even in rehabilition, can easily put you right back where you started in strength and fitness. It goes without saying that avoiding injuries is important, and exercising smarter is the best method of achieving that. Taking a smarter approach to exercise can also ensure you’re achieving progressive, continual gains in health and fitness.
What does it mean to exercise smarter?
In simplistic terms, it means identifying what you’re capable of and pushing it a little further each time you exercise. If you’re a runner who typically runs three miles three times per week, for example, it wouldn’t be the best of ideas to go out and try to run a half marathon. You’ll likely end up with strained muscles or shin splints. Likewise, if you’re a weightlifter who usually bench presses 150 pounds, you probably shouldn’t decide to see how it feels to lift 225 like the football players at the NFL Combine. It’ll most likely feel like a neck or back injury. In both cases, the likely result is multiple weeks of downtime, lost time and lost progress as you heal. Of course, injuries can happen to even the best athletes, which is when it comes in handy to have a sports chiropractor, but pushing it too far before your body is ready is definitely not a “smart” way to exercise.
The objective with any exercise program should be to increase your strength and ability gradually. If you’re an adult who hasn’t exercised in some time, for example, you would be well advised to begin with a walking regimen. Start with walking at an easy speed for just 10 minutes the first few days. It probably won’t feel like you’re doing much at the beginning, but that’s the point. You’ll be steadily the total time spent walking for the next 4 to 8 weeks. Gradually add a few minutes to your total time each day. If you can work your way up to walking half an hour each day without pain or soreness, start increasing the pace. For the general adult population, walking for 30 minutes five times a week at a brisk pace is a great baseline for physical activity.
If the amount of walking becomes uncomfortable, back off a bit and progress slower. Make sure it’s an enjoyable experience! After a few weeks, you might notice you’ve dropped some weight, are feeling more flexible, have a better posture, and are getting better rest during the night.
The same general strategy should be used when starting a strength program. Start with less weight than you might think you can lift. Focus on proper form! Using too much weight encourages poor form and increases the likelihood of injuries that could put you back weeks or months in reaching your goals. Exercise smarter and you’ll see consistent progress in strength, body composition, and general health.
The Bottom Line
While wanting to exercise hard is natural, being smart about exercise leads to more consistant gains in overall health, fitness, muscle mass and strength without the injuries that waste time and progress. Maximize your investment: exercise smarter, not harder.
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United States CDC. Vital signs: walking among adults – United States, 2005 and 2010. MMWR Morbid Mortal Weekly Rep 61:595-601
McNeilly AM. Exercise training and impaired glucose tolerance in obese humans. Journal of Sports Sci 30(8):725-732