Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why The Fuss About the Minimalist Workout

Doc getting in a few afternoon laps
Staying fit is simple. Eat right. Exercise. Get plenty of rest. Repeat each day. Yes, it might be hard work, but it is that simple. Do you need to count calories? Not really. Do you need to keep an exercise journal? Probably not. Should you monitor your sleep patterns? Maybe. I do but you probably don't need to do that.

Your goals and your ability to discipline yourself should determine the answers to those questions. I keep a diary of what I eat and how much I exercise by using MyFitnessPal every day for ore than two years.  It keeps me on track. If you find yourself asking how often or how much should you exercise, then maybe a dairy would help you as well.

So, how much should you exercise? How much cardio is enough? How much strength training is just right? Back in 2010 when I decided I no longer wanted to be fat and out of shape I had no clue how to answer those questions, but I instinctively knew that I needed to burn more calories than I took in to lose weight. For the first three months all I did was eat regular sensible meals and walk at least a mile every day. No diary. No counting. At first it was easy to lose weight because I had a lot to lose. Spurred on by this success I sought out a fitness trainer so I could "move to the next level."  Monica taught me a lot of things in a short period of time, and one of those things that stuck with me is that I should try to do about 20 minutes of exercise every day. I remember her saying that a fitness council had recently changed that to 30 minutes a day because a lot of folks where barely getting in 10, if any.

Today I am more concerned about maintaining weight while adding muscle and reducing fat. In the almost three years since changing my lifestyle I have learned a lot about nutrition and exercise.  Some would say I am kind of a fitness news junkie.  Don't get me wrong - I don't follow fads, I just like to read, and take the things that make sense and apply to my routine.  About a year ago I started doing more HIIT - high intensity interval training.  Easy to apply to jogging - sprint a block, walk a block, jog a block.  Easy to apply to cycling or kettlebells or swimming or walking.  It's one of the reasons I like the JourneyGym; when you don't have a lot of time, you can still get in a good workout.

Even knowing this, my daily goal is still to get in at least 20 minutes of exercise, or about 140 minutes. This week my total is 289 minutes by cycling, swimming, running, walking, and regular gym workouts. That's a daily average of 41 minutes. Knowing this, you now know why this headline from The New York Times online caught my eye.

The Rise of the Minimalist Workout -

While reading in the article that 80% of Americans don't meet daily recommendations, the words of Monica three years ago came to mind. Even those that exercise settle for about 10 minutes a few days a week. Truth is, a large percentage of people in the USA don't do any form of exercise. Any.

Last updated in 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services makes their Physical Activity Guideline for Americans available on the web -

In the summary for chapter 4, Active Adults, HHS says,
Adults gain most of these health benefits when they do the equivalent of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week. Adults gain additional and more extensive health and fitness benefits with even more physical activity. Muscle-strengthening activities also provide health benefits and are an important part of an adult's overall physical activity plan.

Two hours and thirty minutes a week is not a lot, but the minimalist workout being talked about in the NY Times article is a lot less. Before you head off to read it, I want you to remember a couple of things.

If you are trying to lose weight, then exercise enough so that what you eat is less than what you burn.
If you are trying to gain weight, then increase the calories you eat (but be sure to exercise).

Eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest. How you do those three things is up to you. As for me, I'm sticking with the HHS recommendations.

Here's the link to the The Rise of the Minimalist Workout article on

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