It’s a question that is all too familiar. How much of a good thing is too much? Sometimes it is hard to know, but your body will provide the answer. You just have to listen to it.
The first thing you need to look at is your activity level at work. If you have a job where you are sitting all day, you are physically unchallenged all day. Mentally you may be doing somersaults, but your body is sedentary. On the other hand, if you perform a labor job or are standing all day, you are burning more calories and are more active. This is important because when it comes to workout time, you need to address your needs carefully. If you are active all day, your body could benefit from a workout that emphasizes sitting and stretching more than high-energy activity. If you sit all day, you might need an activity that is fun and invigorating, making you feel like you can wash off the stress. Of course these are just a couple of scenarios, so you might fall somewhere in between and need a yoga class one day and a group workout another day. Just remember not to push your body beyond what it is capable of handling, as that will contribute to injuries that will derail your efforts.
As far as diet is concerned, your calorie needs depend on a few things. First of all, you need to consider your goals. Most people benefit from eating small, nutrient-dense meals that give you energy throughout the day. If you are active and burn many calories at your job or during your day, you will need more fuel than someone who sits in front of a computer for the majority of their day. Higher carbohydrate diets should be for lean types that have a high-revving metabolism all day and need the extra energy. For sedentary or heavier folks, cutting back on the calories, especially from carbs and fats, will be more helpful for maintaining and losing weight. Focus carbohydrate foods around workout times or times of high activity because that’s when you will need them the most.
Now that we have focused on energy intake, let’s address the effects of exercise on your body. You shouldn’t punish your body with activity, just provide it with enough to stay fit and healthy. How do you know how much? Well, if you are having trouble waking up in the morning even though you have gotten at least 7 hours of sleep, your body is sore all the time, and/or you are famished more often than not, I would definitely consider dialing down the intensity and the amount of exercise you are doing. Moderation is definitely the key to a happy body. Just remember that all or nothing is not the answer. Strive for a plan that will be sustainable, regardless of the time of the year and your level of motivation. You don’t want to make yourself sick or get injured from too intense of a workout schedule, so find a few activities that work for you and give yourself choices each workout day.
So, here’s a real life example. If you’re an office worker who is sedentary most of the day, save for getting up for breaks and lunch, you could benefit from a daily walk and a few classes or workouts a week. Aim for some cardio, which is something that gets your heart going, like jogging or dancing, and some resistance exercise to keep your muscles strong. If you feel like your body is really sore one day, just walk or stretch instead of pushing through a vigorous routine. The next day you can give it your all and get back some intensity.
Make sure to find what works for you with regards to activity, food and sleep. If you slight your sleep and end up eating too much because your body is tired, you can end up injured from pushing yourself too hard on a low energy day. So pay attention to your body and be kind to it. Recovery is an important part of staying fit and healthy. A massage or a nice hot bath works wonders for soreness on a day when your body is not up for activity.
So, listen to your body and have fun. Fitness should be enjoyable and good for you. It’s great for your mood and your body, especially if you find activities that make you feel good. And make sure to pay attention to cues your body is giving you, especially in the aches and pains department. Too many days of soreness could lead to injury in the long run. Overall, balance is the key to a long and healthy relationship with movement. Figure out the right recipe today to help keep you moving tomorrow and for many years to come.