Our resident academic expert Dr Cheyne Donges from the School of Exercise Science, Sport and Health in Bathurst is back to answer your questions about how to kick start your exercise habit.
- What counts as exercise?
Any planned physical activity that you’re doing to achieve a health benefit.
But most importantly just do something!
- How often should I exercise?
Every second day is a good starting point. If you plan to exercise at least three times time per week then it will become a good habit.
Also, having no more than one day off in between your exercise will also mean that you won’t have to start back at square one physically every time, but you’ll still get some recovery time.
- How long should I exercise for?
If you’re new to exercise or returning after a long break, 30 minutes per session is plenty.
If you don’t feel up to doing 30 minutes in one hit you can break it up into two sessions. Park your car 10 or 15 minutes away from uni then walk in at the start of the day and out at the end and you’ll have done nearly 30 minutes of planned exercise.
- What intensity should I exercise at?
The habit is more important than the intensity. Especially when you’re starting out. Just complete the 30 minutes, then worry about the intensity in a few weeks’ time.
That said, your exercise should be intensive enough to elevate your breathing and provide some challenge to your muscles.
- How should I feel during exercise?
You should feel in control and definitely not in pain. Aim for some middle ground between comfort and discomfort. It’s a workout, it’s not meant to be cruisy.
Be aware of how your body feels. The more you exercise, the better your perception of this will get. You’ll notice that every day is different and your body feels different each time you exercise. Tune in and listen to how your body feels.
- Should I do the same thing for all my exercise sessions?
It depends if you have very specific goals for your exercise.
If it’s to improve your overall fitness then having some variety in the types of exercise you do will give you the best overall results in terms of balanced fitness across strength, cardio-respiratory fitness and flexibility.
- When should I increase the intensity or duration of my exercise?
Not yet. Just complete your 30 minutes three times per week for the first four weeks, and then worry about intensity later.
It can be quite tricky to find the exact sweet spot between being too comfortable and being too challenged so you’ve got to get in the habit of regular exercise first.
Once you notice you’re coping with the exercise sessions a bit better and you feel like you have more energy, then you can increase the intensity a little.
- When do I see results?
For the first three weeks to one month of an exercise program you will generally see little to no physical changes.
But you can be assured it is having an effect. It might not be visible but the benefits of exercise are certainly underway and you may feel an immediate psychological boost.
This question is a big one and we’ll have a whole post on results and what to expect coming up next week.
- Does exercise improve my sleep?
The scientific jury is actually out on this one. Mostly because sleep is a very individual thing.
Overall the general thought on exercise and sleep is that it doesn’t make it worse and it can be beneficial to your sleep to do some exercise, provided you pick a time of day that suits you.
Some people find that intense exercise in the afternoon or evening can be a bit too stimulating (thanks adrenaline!) which then makes it difficult to fall asleep, so they’re better off exercising in the morning. For others it’s not a problem. So just make sure to exercise at a time that works for you.
- I hate running, what else can I do?
Running is hard. It’s ok to admit that. And it takes time and effort to build up to the point of enjoying running. But it is still one of the best cardio workouts you’ll get.
So, if you can run, great. If not, there’s other options.
Firstly, try mixing up your running with walking – do 100 metres of running followed by 300 metres of walking and repeat for the whole 30 minutes.
Then build up over a couple of weeks, gradually but progressively increasing your running distances while simultaneously reducing the length of your walking intervals.
The second option is to do brisk walking for a full 30 minutes. Swing your arms power walk style if you can. Try not to look too ridiculous.
The third option is cycling, preferably on an actual bike not a stationary one in the gym.
Cycling outside gives you a breeze from moving through the world and the natural variance of the terrain you ride over means you get occasional breaks (there’s none of those in running). Your body weight is supported in cycling too and you can regulate your own speed.
Lastly, find a sport or group activity that you love that happens to involve running, without it being just ‘going for a run’ – think squash, singles tennis, soccer, AFL.
#BetterInRed is all about getting the most out of university life by looking after your health and wellbeing. It is an exercise challenge that will run for eight weeks from Monday 6 March.
So, lace up, get out and challenge yourself to complete 30 minutes of exercise three times per week. Share your exercise using #BetterInRed and you could win some great prizes!
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