If you’re following the mainstream advice to “accumulate at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week,” then you may struggle with feeling tired and hungry most of the time. You may even be carrying a few more pounds than you were last year or last decade.
Few things make my blood boil as much as mainstream health recommendations, and this exercise guideline is no exception.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
There are two main reasons why we exercise.
- To build an efficient cardiovascular system.
- To promote muscular strength, power and speed.
It’s important to highlight that these two things require two entirely different strategies.
- Building an efficient cardiovascular system requires lots of low-intensity activity like walking, swimming, cycling, or gardening. Most of us don’t go nearly easy enough when we’re engaging in low-intensity activities like this. You should be able to speak in complete paragraphs – no gasping for breath mid-sentence.
- Building muscular strength, power and speed requires a sprinkle of high-intensity exercise like lifting heavy weights and sprinting. Most of us don’t go nearly hard enough when we’re engaging in high-intensity activities like this. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable! We shouldn’t be able to speak more than a few words without gasping for breath.
Moderate-to-vigorous intensity is truly the no-man’s land of exercise intensities. Sure, we can probably will ourselves to do it for 45-60 minutes a few times per week, but it’s too difficult to build an efficient cardiovascular system yet not difficult enough to improve strength, power and speed. In other words, it’s largely wasted time.
Moderate-to-vigorous exercise makes you tired and hungry. It gives you an excuse to reward yourself with junk food and an extra hour of screen time.
Moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise makes you feel as though you’re getting a workout, but really it’s locking you into a sugar-burning metabolism (burn sugar, eat sugar, produce insulin, store fat).
Moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise is a cruel punishment. It’s not fun to do AND it doesn’t produce much in the way of results.
There are many incredible reasons to exercise, but only if you’re exercising in the proper intensity zones.
Bottom line: Keep your easy days easy so your hard days can be hard.