Below are four common fitness questions we answer at La Misión Fitness & Yoga.
#1 How much do I need to exercise?
This can become a complex question, but the Mayo Clinic recommends a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week, and strength training exercises targeting every muscle group at least two times per week. This agrees with the American Heart Associations recommendations, which also states that if you do more moderate-high intensity aerobic activity then you may only need 75 minutes/week. So, the simple answer is about 30 minutes of exercise every day is sufficient for most of us.
However, these are general recommendations. If you have specific goals, or a certain lifestyle then your activity levels may need to be more or less than the above recommendations. For example: If your goals include reducing blood pressure or cholesterol then the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity exercise 3-4 times per week. This is anywhere from 45 to 85 minutes more than the general recommendations. Strength training, and weight loss goals can also affect these recommendations
#2 Will lifting weights make me bulky?
Yes, lifting weights can make you bulky, but it does not happen by accident. This question is typically asked by women, but men can be concerned about packing on muscle as well. However, there is no need to fear becoming a big hulking gym monster in most cases.
To start with, most women DO NOT have the hormone levels needed to 'bulk up'. Muscular hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) requires levels of testosterone and insulin that most women are incapable of producing without using outside sources. However even when hormone levels are optimum, as they are in most men, increasing muscle size still requires a rigorous training regimen and eating adequate amounts of protein. Both male and female body builders/physique athletes (the people you see covering fitness magazines) have to work very hard and pay attention to everything they eat in order to achieve their body. Even then, many still have to turn to outside sources, like steroids and hormone treatments for help.
For the average gym-goer who is working out only for health benefits, becoming 'bulky' is unlikely.
#3 Can I just watch my diet to lose weight?
Yes you can, but regular exercise can make dieting easier. Losing weight comes down to energy balance. Our bodies get energy from food, and store excess energy as body fat. To reduce body fat one simply needs to bring in less energy than the body needs so that the body uses it's fat stores instead of making more.
However, you can also increase the bodies energy needs by exercising and being more active. This is advantageous because it can create a greater energy deficit with the same amount of food intake. The following example will illustrate:
Jane knows her body uses 2500 calories (an amount of energy) every day. She decides to only eat 2000 calories in order to lose 1 pound every week (one pound of fat is traditionally understood to contain 3500 calories; -500 x 7= -3500). However, she is having trouble reaching her goal and eats 2250 calories instead. She'll still lose weight, but at a much slower rate than she wants. Luckily she's working with a personal trainer, who tells her to do 250 calories worth of exercise/activity every day. This increases her body's energy need to 2750 calories, and since she is still able to eat only 2250 calories worth of food she is now back on track!
#4 Can I just exercise and not watch my diet to lose weight?
Yes you can, but a healthy, nutritious diet can make your exercise plan more effective. For the same reasons as explained above, diet and exercise is almost always more effective than diet or exercise alone. Also, life is not as simple a the example above. Many people think they can outwork a bad diet, but this approach hardly ever works. This is because it is easy to over eat, and many foods available today are high in calories, but low in other nutritious elements. If Jane from our example above were to eat just one snickers bar every day, she would completely negate her 250 calorie burning workout!
So yes, you can just watch your diet, or you can just work out, but you'll gain more results much faster if you partner both together.
Do you have more fitness questions you'd like us to answer? Send us an email at email@example.com or through our facebook page, @lamisionfitness. Just maybe you'll see your question in next week's installment.
Corey Evans, CSCS, CISSN
Corey is a personal trainer and group exercise instructor at La Misión Fitness and Yoga. Before moving to La Misión he was a personal trainer, high school strength coach, and created fitness programs for children and young adults on the Autism Spectrum in Rochester, New York.