Tuesday, May 21, 2019 / Singapore

The exercise minefield: 5 types of exercise you should be doing

An insight into the fitness industry

"According to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sports club Association), the $30 billion health and fitness industry in the U.S. has been growing by at least 3 - 4% annually for the last ten years" and that's just the US!  Business is booming.  With increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other metabolic issues, globally people a wanting to get healthier.  The problem is, with all of this demand comes a lot media attraction.  With studies from researchers, to celebrities and online influencers, all promoting some sort of system for getting you the results you want.   With such a bombardment of information promoting which exercises work best, it's easy to get confused, stressed out and eventually demotivated.  Below are five of the types of 'training' (I say 'training' as opposed to workout, as it implies development and progression) I personally promote to get the best out of your body.

1. Get outdoors

In modern times humanity, generally speaking, has become surrounded by infrastructure and people. I Live in Singapore now and it seems that everywhere is surrounded by high rise buildings, shelters (even on footpaths) and even underground links allow you stay inside, from one building to the next.  All very convenient, but it's almost impossible to take advantage of your natural peripheral vision (which by the way, is method of relaxation).  I'd recommend any outdoor activity for anyone looking to de-stress, 1. It gives you time to yourself. 2.  Gives you some fresh air.  3. Gives your body different stimulus, depending on the activity you're doing.*

What exercises you can do outdoors:

Low Cost                                             Medium cost                                           Highest cost
- Running                                                                                    - Cycling                      - Golf
- Walking/trekking          - Climbing                                         - Obstacle course racing (OCR)
- Racket sports                - TRX               - Surfing                                                       - Sailing 
- Volley ball                                               - Outdoor bootcamps
- Swimming (lake and sea)
- Kicking around with the kids
- Oudoor gyms and 
body weight apparatus
- Roller skating/blading
- Skipping
- Team sports 

*Take running outdoors rather than on a treadmill for example. On a treadmill, the surface is consistent ie flat, you only move in one direction-forwards.  Unless you randomly change the speed or the incline it remains the same.  Compare that to running outdoors, the surface/terrain changes constantly.  Your speed will increase and decrease naturally as you find your 'flow', or as you reach a road to cross.  Your direction will also change, if only slightly. when you're avoiding pedestrians, bikes,  curbs and potholes etc.  All these challenges provide new stimuli and feedback to the body, which will help in the long run.

2. Martial arts

Weight loss, strength, fitness and flexibility are all physiological benefits you'll get from doing martial arts.  But I believe the psychological benefits outweigh the physical benefits by far (I'm so proud my little boy is into grappling).   Martial arts makes exercise fun, as you're naturally not even thinking about it as exercise.  You're learning new skills and once you've learnt those skills, you work on making them better and 'tighter', there's always progression and development.  There's the competitive edge too, even if you decide not to go into a 'competion'.  Or you can progress through a structure, ie belts to get to the highest grade.  You'll get to train with different people, from different backgrounds, make new friends and share a common interest.   You'll boost your self confidence and it'll lay down better habits for self control. You can de-stress and vent.  I don't mean kicking the crap out of your sparring partner, but you'll at least be able to let off some steam in a completely legal way (it feels sooo good to smash the crap out of something).
Martial arts are relatively inexpensive, depending on equipment and gym costs, but for me it's pure investment and will all day, recommend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

3. Mobility/balance/stability/posture 

This isn't just standing on one leg with your eyes closed and it's not just yoga either.  Working on mobility is to increase movement at a joint(s).. It is important because as you age or reduce movement, the joints begin to stiffen and reduce Range Of Motion,(ROM) thus leading to increase risk of injury and progressively poor posture.
If we were to take the ankle for instance (as this is the main joint of 'instability' and the foundations for the rest of the body, moving upwards) and it's 'stiff-with little flexion or extension (moving your foot upwards and downwards),  when your heel strikes the ground (when walking/running), the shin will rotate inwards, leading the knee 'dipping in' too much-leading to more inward rotation of the thigh bone-causing excessive lean forwards at the hip-meaning that the pelvis tilts one side and the spine having to compensate-then the neck has to overcompensate in the other direction-meaning the muscles in your eyes become over strained, trying to maintain even horizontal field of vision annnd breath...All that from just a jammed up ankle and then add excess weight and gravitational forces to that...
Sitting at work in a fixed position and then going to the gym and then siting down on the equipment to workout and then sitting in the car/on the train on the way home, to sit and watch #GOT, is all going to effect your joint structure and impair movement over time.
Have a go at 'one side-at-a-time' exercises, like lunges and standing 1 arm curls.  Mobilise before sessions and don't be afraid of yoga, pilates or dance.  All will help prevent the joints from 'aging'.

4. Body building

I am by no means an authority on body building, but I do weight train and know it's a crucial part of any training/lifestyle balance.  Personally I can't bare the thought of getting up on stage in my skimpys, but I do admire the commitment involved, so as a challenge for yourself, go for it.  The men in the above image are clearly bodybuilders/fitness competitors, this isn't the result of just weight training and this is the far end of the improving ones physique 'scale'.   The benefits of weight, or 'resistance' training, are:

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased strength
  • Increased bone strength 
  • Can help burn fat for up to 72 hours after training
  • Mental focus and intrinsically motivating (increasing weights and seeing 'gains')
  • Lowers risk of diabetes (become more insulin sensitive)
  • Improve heart health
  • And obviously, helps you look good
There's no specific formula to increase muscle mass, but you do need to lift heavy enough repeatedly. Approx 8-12 reps, for 4-6 sets, with around 60 rest in-between is the normal recommendation.  But there's a tonne of variables you can mess around with.   Another important note is, the body gets used to the same stimulus quickly, so every 4-6 weeks (or when you're bored or hit a plateau) change it up.

5. High Intensity

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become very popular in recent years, with scientists and fit pros boasting it's worth and with good reason too.  HIIT can help you increase fitness and decrease body fat, in a short period of time...buuuut.  You do have to make it intense!  People have misinterpreted this as 'as long as I'm doing an exercise for 20 seconds, I'm burning fat right?' annnd rest.  Nah!  Blowing-like literally hanging out of your arse for 20-60 seconds, 100%-balls to the wall-"I'm gunna puke"-"please make it stop" kind of intensity.
Obviously this kind of intensity isn't for the feint of heart, so it does take some building up to.  Really you should be elevating your heart rate to 85+%MHR to get the benefit and when your heart gets back down to around 65-70%MHR,  off you go again.   For me, a couple of the best exercises for that are the rower, watt bike, skillmill/treadmill and Air assault bike.  Most other exercises give you to much rest between repetitions-(yeah, that's how harsh I am).

Ultimately though, it's all down to 'whatever floats your boat'.  Whatever keeps you fit, healthy and motivated is the best exercise for you.  But have a go at something different, as you can always improve, learn and find something new.  For me I've been totally against Crossfit for years (as means of training), but I mentally need something to complete with both myself and others in.  So I'm dipping into it.  Next month I'll be back into the BJJ, I'm always weight training, running outdoors a couple of times a week and I'll throw in the occasion yoga session, when my body needs a 'chill'. That's just me.

Keep it real folks


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