What’s the Least Amount of Exercise You Can Get Away With?

fit man sitting in gym with towel around neck

He’s contemplating whether he’s done enough exercise this week.

It might seem like a strange title for a blog, right? Why would I encourage you to do the bare minimum of exercise when I really want you to do everything according to a plan that I recommend for you?

Let me put it this way. After nearly fifteen years in the fitness industry coaching others to be their best selves, I’ve realized that life doesn’t always follow a perfect plan (in fact, it almost never does!) and even the most well-intentioned clients go astray at some point. They need a simpler way to meet their goals without the hard and fast routine that would normally be required.

Yes, me too!

Ok, I’ll admit that I also have times when I can’t follow that ideal plan that I set up for myself. Life puts all of us under pressure at some point. As a new mom to a sweet, loveable, and very much time-consuming baby named Kai, I’ve realized that it isn’t always possible to do things exactly as I plan every day.

So what can we get away with?

Exercise Minimums and Alternatives

That depends on your goals. If your aim is to be generally fit and healthy, I believe that 3 or 4 days of week of 30 minutes is a bare minimum. That’s assuming you’re moving around a bit during the day too. Even the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150mins of weekly cardio exercise and 2 days of weight training. If you’re looking at the bottom of the activity range, every little bit helps.

Walking a few flights of stairs here and there, doing 20 squats during commercials, or doing butt squeezes while you wait for the elevator may seem like very little but when you compare them to, well, doingnothingĀ then they still win.

Laughable? Or a Smart Solution?

I used to laugh at those “silly” workout routines for moms where the women would lift her baby over her head repeatedly to work her shoulders and triceps muscles. Now I do “Baby Kai presses” while I’m playing with my son and hope that it’s doing me some good. I’ve even managed to do 20-45 minute workouts with my baby son asleep in his carrier on my chest.

Sure, the workout is a lot more limited since I can’t lie down on the ground or on a bench, but I’m convinced that “Baby Kai lunges” (walking lunges with Kai in his carrier) and “Baby Kai step-ups” are helping my legs and glutes stay in shape when I can’t make it to the gym. They’re the ultimate form of progressive resistance too…Kai’s about 16 pounds now and rapidly gaining weight!

I consider those exercise sessions a bit of an add-on to the more serious sessions I spend at the gym. If nothing else, they keep me from feeling sluggish and maintain my enthusiasm for the harder sessions I do when someone else takes care of the baby. They ARE NOT a replacement for the consistent, intense gym sessions that I normally do to build my physique.

But they don’t hurt.

Keeping your Motivation up and Your Mind on Movement

Does it seem lame to you to go 20 push-ups first thing in the morning and again later in the day? Maybe it’s not going to get you a bodybuilder-sized chest, but if the alternative is changing channels on the remote then it’s still time well spent. Every time you do a few bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, or one-legged deadlifts, you’re reminding your body how good it feels to move and encouraging your mindset to be body-focussed.

Don’t ignore this important mental connection.

I know, it’s not the ideal solution. If you want to lose a lot of weight, compete in a physique contest, or have a body that belongs on the cover of a fitness magazine, you need to be doing progressive weight training more than a couple of times a week. Still, given that less than half of people exercise AT ALL, you’re doing better than most if you just throw in thirty minutes of concentrated activity a few times a week.

So let’s make that the absoluteĀ minimum, ok? šŸ˜‰

Ivana ChapmanĀ 

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