That hectic life of yours leaving your breathless? What with a full-time job, busy home life and a bit of a social life, you can't find time to get some exercise in - even though you may have resolved that this year would be different.
You probably don't have a job at one of the few workplaces that have incorporated a bit of exercise right at the desk.
Maybe your boss has paid attention to the Public Health Agency of Canada's advice that encouraging employees to be active and providing the means for them to do so makes sense as a business case. The agency says companies reported reduced absenteeism and a healthier workforce by offering their employess incentives such as:
- Discounts at local fitness facilities.
- Running clinics.
- Monthly seminars and workshops, as well as lunch sessions on topics such as quitting smoking.
- Health newsletters in pay stubs.
There are differing opinions on how much exercise — and what kinds — you need to maintain fitness. The standard prescription seems to be 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio (such as brisk walking) five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorously intense cardio (such as running) three days a week. Strength training should be done as part of the routine twice a week. Still others tout brief but intense workouts as the way to go for busy people. You won't increase your fitness levels without periodically stressing your body through harder work, so limiting your workouts to brief sessions may not be the best route to a fitter life.
Marshall Tully is a personal trainer in Toronto and the force behind Full Blast Personal Training. He specializes in improving body composition by combining good exercise techniques while focusing on improving a client's nutrition habits.
"When people tell me 'I don't have time to exercise, I'm trying to find 60-90 minutes in a day' it's kind of like trying to find time to have a baby. If you wait for the right time it's not gonna happen."
Tully's philosophy is that the exercise you fit in over the course of a day adds up.
"It doesn't have to be in a gym: you can run stairs in your building, do sit ups during TV commercials — it's all cumulative."
But that doesn't mean you don't have to work hard.
Tully offers these tips for people who want to fit a healthy lifestyle into their hectic days:
Be efficient with your workouts
"It's all about intensity," Tully says, "the body does not react to how long but how hard it is worked."
If you're doing a cardio workout, do it hard — after you've warmed up.
If you're doing weights, don't do a lot of repetitions with light weights — use enough weight that after two or three sets of eight to 10 repetitions, your muscles feel tired.
Tully argues that using weights — resistance training — boosts metabolism, helps fight osteoporosis in women, and can help with common aches and pains like tension headaches and low back pain.
Nutrition for fat loss
If you work out, your muscles need fuel. The best fuel for your muscles is food loaded with carbohydrates. But you'll want to focus on whole-grain carbs, which take longer for the body to break down. This helps make you feel full longer.
Tully notes that blindly choosing low-fat products over ones with a higher fat content may not be the best way to go. Often, products achieve low-fat status through the addition of sugar. Studies have suggested the the amount of fat you take in is not necessarily related to your body's fat content. It's all about how many calories you take in and how many you burn.
There's that old saying "everything in moderation."
Tully says that may be all right if you're already pretty healthy and fit. But if you want serious results you're going to need a serious, aggressive approach. A "moderate" approach might limit you to moderate results.
"People don't usually come to me when they simply want to lose five pounds, they come to me when they want to radically change the shape of their body, and get dramatic 'before and after' photos," Tully says. "That can only be achieved trough a wholesale change in your relationship with food, done so on a consistent basis."
Tully says people are getting the wrong message from the food industry.
"This time of year often we're told that radical weight loss can simply be achieved by switching to a healthier brand of cereal, eating low-fat yogurt, or drinking light beer. The reality, of course is that if you want to seriously reshape your body, your nutrition needs to be taken as seriously as a job that pays your mortgage and feeds your kids."
Tully advises his clients to eats lots of fruits and vegetables and to stay away from processed food.
"In terms of nutrition, make sure you cook real food. Cook in bulk, massive amounts, freeze it, and eat in regular intervals to keep your nutrition up."
When it comes to your workout, keep it simple.
"Simple workouts, movements that mimic real-life activities. Make your workouts efficient and hard and be tenacious. Do it consistently and really, really push past your comfort zone."
Tully says work hard and you might surprise yourself.