Like most young females, growing up I felt pressure to look a certain way – and usually a big part of this was be thin, thus I was constantly trying out new diets in an attempt to lose weight. This normally went hand in hand with upping my gym sessions, sometimes going twice or even three times a day (!) and often to the point where I would feel sore and incredibly tired. What I didn’t realise that all this extra exercise was putting additional stress on my body. Whilst exercise and movement are both important factors in weight management and a healthy lifestyle, too much exercise – either in terms of intensity or frequency, can actually create stress which can lead to all kinds of issues, such as hypothyroidism.
Regular exercise and movement in general – ie walking, doing housework, standing up to talk on the phone – anything really that doesnt involve sitting down which we are doing more and more – is an important part of living a healthy life, however the type of exercise or movement that you do and how often is an incredibly individual thing and depends greatly on a number of factors.
When it comes to exercise and weight-loss in particular, effective exercise is incredibly important, and a lot of research lately had shown that the most effective way to exercise is short bursts of high intensity, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). If you’re interested in the science and research behind this, you may be interested in reading this study, or watching this doco aired by the BBC a few years back.
I first dabbled in HIIT training around 6 or so years ago, in the form of short sprints interspersed with jogging or walking on the treadmill. At the time I lost about 4 kilos (10 pounds) in a few weeks – also combined with limiting my food intake and other exercise – however this definitely wasn’t sustainable, and unsurprisingly when I backed off the exercise a little and started eating more regularly again…
I re-gained the weight I had lost.
These days my exercise routine is far more balanced – I do one or two HIIT classes at the gym per week (occasionally 3 if I have enough time and am feeling particularly energetic), plus yoga or Pilates most days, and walking. One thing I have noticed since changing my exercise routine to be more balanced is that nowadays when I exercise, especially something high-impact like HIIT, I feel so good and energised afterwards that I don’t WANT to eat junk. This is definitely a conscious shift in mindset – and a welcome change from all those times I used to go to the gym and not push myself, eg light weights in a Pump class, or only walking on the treadmill (and only staying 20 minutes or so!), and would still then reward myself with chocolate afterwards, justifying the treat by telling myself “well, you did go to the gym this morning!”
But the main thing I like about HIIT, asides from the fact that it is a quick, effective class with visible results, the that keeps me going back – the main thing that I didn’t always get with attack or pump or jogging – is that I feel good afterwards. I feel alive, and energised and healthy – I don’t need to rationalise to myself a “reward” for going because I don’t WANT that chocolate afterwards, I want to maintain the good healthy glow that this style of training gives me.
So – what type of exercise should YOU be doing?
As much as I’d be able to tell you what will work for you to get you your desired results, the fact is that it differs from person to person, and depends on a range of factors. You may be like me and find you get more out of a group fitness activity like a Pilates class or class at the gym, or you might prefer to be able to go it alone and exercise at your own pace. The time of day you exercise may to dictate which classes you can attend, as might your budget. And also your end goal – do you just want to lose a few kilos, or are you more interested in toning up? There are many different factors which can impact what exercise will suit you and your needs best, and over the next few days as part of the ‘Getting healthy for summer” series, we’ll take a closer look at some of these.
An important thing to remember though is that even though regular exercsie and movement is important for living a healthy, balanced life – when it comes to losing weight, 80% of the effort needs to be through diet and nutrition. After all – you can’t outrun a bad diet!
Have you tried HIT? Did you love it, or not think it was for you? Whats your favorite way to enjoy working out?