It seems that we’re constantly fed new paradigms about what type of exercise we should be doing to get fit, or how long we should be doing it, or how intense the exercise should be for maximal results. And there are certainly different types of exercise that are better than others, depending on your goals.
However, for the simple sake of achieving a minimal level of fitness, the rules are pretty straight-forward. Today, I want to show you exactly what a minimal fitness program looks like, in case that is your goal. After all, not everyone wants to be there best self-possible. Some of us just want to be healthier.
So that I don’t let my hard-chargers down, I also want to take time to review what your activity level should look like if your goal is to go beyond a minimal level of fitness, into the realm of mastery.
What it Takes to Be Minimally Fit
If you look at the cover of any fitness magazine, you might think that you need to have a shredded six-pack, defined shoulders, and a ripped back in order to be deemed “fit”. And if you take that assumption to hard, as so many people do, you might sell yourself short by thinking that you will never be able to get into shape, after all.
However, magazines and news outlets aren’t in the business of selling what’s true. They’re in the business of selling the extreme and the outlandish. Now, don’t get me wrong. In my years as a personal trainer, working with people from age 10 to age 80, I’ve come to truly believe that you can have the body you want if you’re willing to put in the work to get it. The point is, you don’t have to achieve optimal-shreddedness in order to be in shape.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what you need to do if you’re simply looking to develop a base-level of fitness. This means that you want to have more energy than you currently have while improving some of your health markers along the way.
If this seems like a good place to start for you, I have good news. The World Health Organization, or WHO for short, states the following as it pertains to achieving this minimal level of fitness:
“…adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate – and vigorous-intensity activity.”
So, the numbers you’re shooting for are 150 of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. If you’re wondering what that might look like, here are 3 examples of a physical activity plan that would fit this bill:
Physical Activity Plan #1 – 150 Minutes of Moderate Aerobic Activity
5 Days a week, do 30 minutes of one of the following:
Ride a bike
The goal is to maintain a steady, consistent pace of whatever activity you choose, since this is supposed to be moderate-intensity.
Physical Activity Plan #2 – 75 Minutes of Vigorous Aerobic Activity
3 Days a week, do 25 minutes of one of the following:
The purpose here is to get your heart rate up higher for short periods of time, then letting it come down slightly before increasing the intensity of work again.
Physical Activity Plan #3 – Combo
2 Days a week, do 30 minutes of any activity from Plan #1
2 Days a week, do 25 minutes of any activity from Plan #2
This last plan is meant to combine the moderate and vigorous plans outlined above, giving you a variety of options and increasing your level of fitness to a nominal degree.
As I mentioned, these 3 plans can be a great place to start, or live by, if your goal is to keep yourself minimally fit. Also, for those looking to boost their health and wellness, these are great activities to combine with a more deliberate plan, which we’ll be going over next.
How to Go From Minimally Fit to Optimally Fit
Now that we’ve covered what it takes to develop a base level of fitness, it’s time to review where you’ll need to go achieve your health and fitness goals. Optimal fitness is different for everyone. For some people, optimal fitness is fitting into a pair of pants that haven’t fit for 5 years. For others, optimal fitness is being ready to do a Spartan race at a moments notice.
While it’s up to you to figure out what optimal fitness looks like, it’s going to take a bit more effort than maintaining the standards we’ve reviewed from above. So let’s take a look at what that means on a basic level…
Going back to our good friends at WHO, here is their recommendation for anybody striving to achieve higher levels of health and fitness:
“For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.”
As you can tell, we’ve suddenly leveled-up our activity and go from only aerobic-type exercise to aerobic and strength-training exercise. While this looks like a lot of work on the surface, when you break it down, you should be able to hit these numbers pretty easily.
To help jog your imagination on how a program might look for you, here are 3 examples of what you can do to reach these numbers and start to pursue optimal health and fitness of your own:
Optimal Fitness Plan #1 – 300 Minutes of Moderate Activity + Strength Training
6 Days a week, do 50 minutes of one of the following:
Ride a bike
Optimal Fitness Plan #2 – 150 Minutes of Moderate Activity + Strength Training
3 Days a week, do 50 minutes of one of the following:
On top of this, add 4 days a week of strength training.
Optimal Fitness Plan #3 – Supercharged Combo
3 Days a week, do 50 minutes of any activity from Plan #1
2 Days a week, do 50 minutes of any activity from Plan #2
On top of this, do 3 days a week of strength training
As you review these programs, there are a couple of important things to understand. First, when it comes to the moderate and vigorous aerobic activity, you do not have to do these times in one single chunk. In other words, if the recommendation calls for 30 minutes of moderate activity, you do not have to do the activity in a single 30-minute session.
One of the best ways to get moderate to vigorous aerobic activity in is through your Movement Hygiene practice (if you haven’t developed your own practice yet, be sure to check out the video and get started TODAY). Basically, this is a way to break that 30-minutes into bight-sized chunks to make it easier to consume.
For instance, instead of doing a 30-minute walk all at once, maybe you do 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes after work. This is going to be much more advantageous than doing it all at once because it’s forcing you to move more often throughout the day.
The second thing to understand has to do with strength training. Your strength training sessions should be between 30 and 50 minutes long, but no longer. Once you get past about 60 minutes, you’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. So, there’s no need to fear having to spend hours at the gym.
This is why our Semi-Private Training sessions are programmed to take 50 minutes to complete, and our Team Training classes are scheduled for 30 or 50 minutes. That’s all you need for one session in order to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Where to Go from Here
Now that you know what it takes to achieve a base level of fitness and an optimal level of fitness, it’s for you to decide where you want to start. If you’re happy being able to move around with more energy, start with a base-level program by walking or hiking or biking every day.
For those of you ready to reach optimal-fitness levels, it’s time to add on to those 30-minute walking sessions. Take your health up a notch by incorporating at least 2 days of strength training per week, depending on your goals.
If you’re looking for something more individualized, then I recommend starting with Fit Over 50. This will give you a personalized nutrition AND fitness program to help you reach your optimal goals.
If you enjoy the empowerment of a group, on the other hand, then Project Recharge is where you want to be. This is our proprietary 6-week program that we only run 2 times per year. You go through the program with your group of Rechargers, learning and struggling along the way together.
No matter where you decide to start, what’s important is that you choose and take action. Because action is the only thing standing between you and the results you want. Everything else is just secondary.
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