Daily Exercise: How Much Is Too Much?
According to the NHS website and national guidance, we’re meant to be exercising every day. The issue is that exercise is should a broad term.
Some of us even turn to going to the gym every day, even multiple times a day, which is largely unnecessary for improving health and even weight loss for the general population.
A lot of people would actually benefit from improving their NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogensis) from general daily habits like walking, housework, gardening or even just getting up more if you have a desk job.
Do you overdo it in the gym?
Have you ever done a little bit too much in one week? I’ve done it and I’m sure many of you have too! But taking days to recover or never feeling fully rested isn’t ideal. But the type of training you do matters too…
High-intensity sessions causing your body to exceed more than 90% of your max heart rate for more than 40 minutes per week is likely to raise cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone (1).
Because of this, it’s important to do a mix of training and not just stick to HIIT sessions alone as you can cause excess stress to the body.
This is often a problem I see amongst women who exercise frequently!
How hard should you push yourself?
While high-intensity sessions can be beneficial, you might want to work to some sort of metric to measure increases of the working sections of your workouts and make sure you allow substantial time to recover.
For instance, someone who is fairly fit would be capable of shorter rest periods of a ratio of 2:1 whereas someone who considers themselves to be unfit would benefit from a ratio of 1:1 or more.
It might be an idea to work to an RPE (rate of perceived extertion) scale, where your high intensity time is at an 8/9 out of 10. Or, you could keep an eye on your heart rate if you have a heart rate monitor, work to 85-95% of your max heart rate and allow it to come down during the rest or active recovery (2).
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What about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogensis?
More and more jobs involve sitting at a desk all day. While jobs where you’re having to stand all day can definitely have negative effects on the body, sitting is now considered to be a major influence on our health. This is where a focus on NEAT is beneficial.
Ever heard advice to take the stairs when you can? This is to improve your NEAT. As mentioned previously, increasing your daily activity levels alone can have positive effects on health and body composition (3).
Of course, regular workouts also contribute to energy usage, but overall calorie intake is going to be a contributing factor when it comes to weight loss (4).
- Consistently being active actually takes up more time throughout the day and therefore gives you a higher activity level and overall energy burn, as opposed to being very sedentary and then doing a 30-minute workout.
- While some workout programmes require 4-6 training sessions per week you should first take a look at your overall lifestyle if weight loss is your goal
- As little as 1-3 workouts per week will have a positive effect on your health
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1 – Gottschall JS, Davis JJ, Hastings B, Porter HJ. Exercise Time and Intensity: How Much Is Too Much? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2020 Feb
2 – Taylor JL, Holland DJ, Spathis JG, Beetham KS, Wisløff U, Keating SE, Coombes JS. Guidelines for the delivery and monitoring of high intensity interval training in clinical populations. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Mar-Apr
3 – Malaeb S, Perez-Leighton CE, Noble EE, Billington C. A “NEAT” Approach to Obesity Prevention in the Modern Work Environment. Workplace Health Saf. 2019 Mar
4 – Obert J, Pearlman M, Obert L, Chapin S. Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017 Nov