To keep fit and manage weight, exercise less

Latest studies show that lesser exercise volume will lead to favorable fitness and weight control results, as opposed to over-training or spending longer workout hours.

Aside from the written facts, stories from successful weight maintainers can always attest to the short and long-term benefits of how moderate training will positively affect one's lifestyle, and how over-exercising can lead to performance, recovery and weight issues.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that long-time runners improved their running performance, health status and emotional well-being after a 50-per cent reduction in their total training over the span of seven weeks.

They followed a 10-20-30 training concept, a program that can be completed in 20-30 minutes including warm-up. While the program consists of varying intensities, rest periods and shorter workout duration (20-30 minutes), individuals with different fitness levels and exercise backgrounds can perform this type of training.

The 10-20-30 concept

Start with a 1-km warm-up at low intensity.

Perform 3-4 blocks of 5 minutes running, interspersed with 2 minutes' rest.

Each block consists of 5 consecutive 1-minute intervals divided into 30 seconds of low-intensity run, 20 seconds of moderate-intensity run and 10 seconds of near maximal-intensity run.

Over-exercising is counterproductive to a workout lifestyle that can be sustained long-term because your body fails to adjust and recover in response to the huge load that you give to your body. The longer and the more intense the workout, the more time the body needs to recover. This can take several days, weeks or even months, depending on the individual's response to the training load.

This is primarily the reason you cannot join all the run and/or triathlon races every week and exert a race pace effort, especially if you are not a professional athlete. The shorter recovery time you need, the more frequently you can work out, the more calories you burn, because you might just need a day or two of rest per week.

Less intense

Less intense

And to further justify the benefits of moderate exercise training, for more than a year now, I have been allotting 40-60 minutes per formal workout session, four to five times a week. My current exercise plan is definitely less intense and has shorter duration, compared to my previous plans when I was still training for my annual full marathons that started several years ago.

Based on my own fitness records that I regularly update, I became more consistent in my exercise routine especially in resistance training, because there's lesser recovery time needed now compared to when I was running two to three hours even once a week, when I used to train for marathons.

Marathon training is great, but you should really prepare for that and you do not need to push your body by doing three to five marathons a year, because recovery is as important as the actual training and race day.

Lighter weights

Another recent finding by McMaster researchers published in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that lifting lighter weight more times is as effective in muscle-building as lifting with heavy weights.

The three programs used during the 10 weeks of training, three times a week were:

- One set of 8-12 repetitions at 80 per cent of the maximum load

- Three sets of 8-12 repetitions at 80 per cent of the maximum load

- Three sets of 25-30 repetitions at 30 per cent of the maximum load

According to Cam Mitchell, one of the lead researchers, lifting lighter loads will benefit people with existing joint problems, which prevent them from lifting heavy loads. This study will be of great help to individuals with less workout experience like women, sedentary people, and younger and older people, because they will be more encouraged now to add resistance training to their program.

Weight control

Weight control

The more you work out, the more calories you need to supply your body's energy demands. An individual training for a half-IronMan distance usually trains for more than an hour per day and can burn more than 10,000 calories per week, but can also exceed his total caloric intake and so can still gain weight despite the exercise load.

This shows that exercise volume will not automatically result in weight loss, because your mind and body will always look for continuous nourishment before, during and after exercise.

Exercisers devoting two to three hours of workout per day can relate to the example mentioned. A 150-pound exerciser can burn 1,000 calories doing three hours of moderate to intense group exercise classes, but can eat 3,000 calories per day and still gain one to two pounds per week.

Over-exercising might negate your goals of losing weight, because you always have the tendency to eat more as a natural response of your mind and body.

If you are trying to manage your weight, focus on a moderate amount of workout and balance it out with your food intake, rather than exercising up to the point of injury, burnout and over-eating.

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