One of the consistent, anecdotal outcomes seen in 40-plus year-olds who engage in strength training is a resultant spontaneous increase in physical activity. As we become stronger and more functional via strength training, we almost impulsively seek to see what our bodies can DO with this new found strength and prowess. Whether your new found strength is compelling you to be more physically active, or you simply ENJOY exercise, here are four guidelines for adding more physical activity and exercise to your weekly regimen.
- Understand the difference between Exercise and Recreation. Exercise is designed to improve our health and fitness while recreation is really performed for fun but may also provide some fitness benefit; and some of this recreation might end up injuring us (for example, my recreation is running marathons, which involves physical activity but also increases my risk of injury; this makes marathon running very poor exercise!). Often we confuse the two, but the distinction is important. For a more nuanced explanation of this distiction, I encourage you to read a blog written by our friends at The Perfect Workout (based in San Diego): https://www.theperfectworkout.com/resources/blog/separating-exercise-and-recreation/.
- Look at strength training as a valuable adjunct to your recreation. If you want to run marathons, climb mountains, surf, cycle, or practice yoga, strength training is perhaps the single greatest way to both enhance performance in these activities while making us more resilient to both acute and chronic injury. This is why an NFL football player makes strength training a priority; the strength training is intended to prevent injury in the sport (in this case, a form of recreation that pays pretty well) itself.
- Try to avoid working against resistance every day (this resistance could come from a machine, free-weight, or your bodyweight). Putting 2-3 days of recovery between exercise or physical activity that involves resistance will allow you to recover and maximize the benefits you receive from strength training. We CAN workout and be active every day of the week; but we can’t place resistance on our muscles more than about 3 times per week and still expect to progress. If you strength train on Monday, don’t do push-ups or ab work on Tuesday, this will negatively impact your recovery. Instead, on Tuesday, take a spin class, go for a run, or play pick-up basketball. You CAN fit in all of your favorite activities, you just want to be mindful of recovery from resistance on your muscles.
- Ask the question: What is my objective? Am I performing physical activity, exercise, and recreation to lose fat, to gain muscle, to relieve stress, for social outlet and community, for the thrill of competition, enjoyment of the outdoors, or to ward off chronic disease? There are no right or wrong answers to this question, but your answer should be aligned with the exercise and activity that you choose to perform. In this sense, there is no such thing as good or bad physical activity; but the key question probably becomes, “Good or bad for what?”