The Best Forms of Exercise for Time Efficient Workouts

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

At the beginning of the New Year many people make resolutions to get more exercise and get in better shape.  However, like it or not, we live in a very fast paced society, and it can be very difficult to try and carve out large junks of time to exercise and eat right—regardless of our resolutions.  So in the interest of efficiency, and providing the knowledge needed to really make our resolutions “stick” let’s examine the fastest methods to get into good shape.

How F.I.T. is Your Routine?

In exercise science, it is common to use the acronym F.I.T. in talking about an exercise prescription:

F= Frequency (How often you exercise)
I= Intensity (How hard you exercise)
T= Time (How long you exercise)

Which one do you believe is most important for fast progress? Fortunately for those of us who are time pressed, it is not how often, or how long you train that is most associated with increased fitness—but how hard.  It is the stimulus of strenuous effort that causes the body to adapt and change the most notably.

How Many Muscles are You Using?

You can greatly improve the efficiency of your workouts by doing those activities that activate the most muscle at one time.  Look at the activities below, and the approximate amount of time necessary to get a good aerobic workout from each—it’s very eye opening! 

 Exercise  Minimum Time for a Systemic Response
Walking  40 minutes
Bicycling, indoor  25 minutes
Bicycling,outdoor   20 minutes
Swimming  20 minutes
Jogging  15 minutes
Rowing  15 minutes
Cross-country skiing  12 minutes
Circuit Weight Training w/compound movements  12 minutes

The important thing is how many muscles are you using, and at what level of effort are you using them.  Whatever the activity, if you use more muscle, more deeply, you will bring about a response in your body more quickly.

Using Intervals for Fitness

Intensity, or how hard an exercise is, is really a relative term.  What is difficult for an exerciser who is terribly out of shape and fifty pounds over fat, is totally different from what an athlete perceives as difficult.  The key however, is the same for both—pushing yourself above what's comfortable to produce results. An exciting way to do this, without injuring yourself, is through the use of intervals.  An interval is a brief period during your regular aerobic exercise, where you really push yourself—so you get close to out of breath.  Intervals usually last about 20sec to maybe 90sec and then the intensity goes back down so you can catch your breath.  Doing this 3 or 4 times (or more!) in a workout will really "press" your aerobic capacity, causing it to become exposed to, and thereby conditioned to, higher intensities of effort quicker.  

Cross Training and Weight Training

These two often neglected forms of training will also greatly increase the intensity of your program.  

Cross Training— This simply means changing the types of exercises you are doing now and again, to make the muscles perform in unaccustomed ways.  Since the muscles are not used to the new exercise, the work (even if moderate) seems more intense to them.  If you like to walk or jog, try biking or swimming once in a while.  If you like the Stairmaster, try the rower once a week, etc.
Weight Training— You may have noticed that “compound movements” done one after the other, like a circuit, was as efficient as cross country skiing for getting in great shape in our chart above.  “Compound movements” are the basic body movements like squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, etc. Choosing about five weight lifting exercises (like leg press, chest press, pulldown, overhead press and row) to cover the major bodily movements can REALLY increase intensity for those muscles.  Performing those exercises until you can barely do another repetition is the best way to really increase your strength and fitness fast!  Also, no other activity will impact how you look as much as this one!  And Ladies, that means you too!  Exercising hard with weights will not bulk up your muscles if you are female—but will produce a toned, sleek appearance, when done in conjunction with a good diet.  

So if a healthier, fitter body is one of your New Year’s resolutions give these methods a try.  And if you want to be leaner, they can make or break your weight management efforts—especially with advancing age.  I’ll see you at the gym!

Submitted by: Thomas Morrison, Fitness Coordinator, Bradley Wellness Center