If you have struggled with exercise, you are not alone! According to statistics from the CDC(1), only 20.7% of people exercise like they should and less than one third of the America’s youth is even fit for military service. As a result, 68.5% of adults are overweight or obese. We all have many excuses for not exercising or not exercising as much or as often as we should. These excuses have become firmly ingrained in our own minds in the collective mind of our society.
However, upon inspection, we see that these excuses for not exercising are nothing more than exercise myths. When you apply these myths to yourself, you are actually lying to yourself. These are actually lies about exercise that we tell ourselves but you need to understand the truth so that you can restore your health and achieve an amazing level of wellness!
Amazing Benefits of Exercise
Before we tackle the top four myths of exercise, lets set our minds on some of the amazing benefits that are yours for the taking when you incorporate regular and consistent physical exercise into your lifestyle.
Exercise improves your mental outlook and has even been shown to be more effective at treating depression than anti-depressant medications. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that researchers found that exercise as simple as walking for 30 minutes each day improved a patient’s symptoms faster than an antidepressant drug.(2)
Additionally, a 2012 study found that four months of high-intensity interval training significantly improved cognitive functions such as the ability to think, recall and make quick decisions.(3) Yes, exercise makes you smarter and enhances certain mood related hormones causing you to feel better about yourself and your life!
An article(4) from Harvard School of Public Health summarized many of the phenomenal benefits of regular physical activity stating that exercise:
Improves your chances of living longer and living healthier
Helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or its precursors, high blood pressure and undesirable blood lipid patterns
Helps protect you from developing certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial (uterine lining) cancer
Helps prevent type 2 diabetes (what was once called adult-onset diabetes) and metabolic syndrome (a constellation of risk factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes)
Helps prevent the insidious loss of bone known as osteoporosis
Reduces the risk of falling and improves cognitive function among older adults
Relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves mood
Prevents weight gain, promotes weight loss, and helps keep weight off after weight loss
Improves heart-lung and muscle fitness
Better heart health, less cancer and depression, more smarts and more energy – sign me up! Now let’s deal with the exercise myths – the excuses that we have allowed to get in our way.
Exercise Myth #1 – I Don’t Have Time to Exercise
This used to be my #1 excuse for not exercising. I would constantly tell myself that I just don’t have time to drive to the gym and spend an hour or two working out. I knew all of the great benefits of exercise but, for me, it just wasn’t worth the investment of time.
I thought, if I just had some exercise equipment at home and I didn’t have to spend the additional time of driving to the gym, then I would exercise more. Well, like most people, I accumulated several pieces of equipment that did little more for me than take up space and collect dust. I still made excuses why I couldn’t spend hours a day on exercise.
Then I discovered that I could get all the amazing cardiovascular benefits of exercise (and even more) in as little as 12 minutes per day! I can do that! I learned that exercise doesn’t have to take hours a day.
In fact, research has shown that you actually get more healthy benefits by doing short duration, high intensity, metabolic conditioning workouts than you do with traditional, aerobic type exercise. Better health benefits in just a fraction of the time – that’s what achieving an efficient wellness lifestyle is all about! I already get up very early. I don’t want to get up an extra hour or two earlier. But I can get just up 15 minutes earlier to get the amazing health benefits of exercise.
Exercise Myth #2 – Exercise Is Too Boring
One of the amazing things about Metabolic Conditioning exercise is that it is so versatile. If you like running, you can incorporate it into your running routine. If you like going nowhere fast by running on a treadmill, you can get far better results by incorporating Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon) into your routine.
While I have great respect for long distance runners and ultra marathoners, I find no personal joy or excitement in running myself. If getting the benefits of exercise required long periods of running or jogging, it would be far more difficult for me to exercise.
However, metabolic conditioning exercise is more about the way you exercise than it is about the type of movement you do. What that means is that virtually any exercise movement can be utilized with MetCon.
I typically work my body through over 40 different exercises throughout the course of one week. However, each exercise is only performed for 20 to 60 seconds at a time. This wide variety of exercises done over short time periods transforms a long, boring exercise routine into an exciting and powerful component of your day that you will not want to miss!
Exercise Myth #3 – I Can’t Afford A Gym Membership
I love gyms and have had gym memberships for years (that have, unfortunately, often gone unused). Professionally, I have partnered with gyms and gym owners throughout my career as well. It is great to go somewhere and work out in a community of other like-minded people. It is energizing and motivating. Some people would not work out if they could not do so at a gym.
However, there is no reason to let the cost of a gym membership deter you from exercising. MetCon exercise can be done at a gym, it can be done at home, in a hotel, on the beach, on the Appalachian trail – it can be done anywhere.
It does not require you to spend any money on a gym membership or expensive home exercise equipment. While adding a few pieces of inexpensive equipment – like exercise bands and a balance ball – can help you add variety and resistance, these are not required to do the exercise. Cost is not an issue – exercise is free and the terrific benefits will pay you dividends for years to come.
Exercise Myth #4 – Exercise Hurts
Some people are so far out of shape that exercise does hurt them. I understand. You know that you need to exercise, you finally found the courage (and the energy) to go to a gym and workout or go out for a run and now you are regretting your decision. Maybe you overdid it, aggravated an old injury or maybe someone encouraged you to do a type of exercise that is not compatible with your health condition.
On the other hand, maybe you did fine with the exercise but afterward, you felt exhausted and required days to recover and get back to normal activities.
While it does take time to build up your body to get optimal results from exercise if you haven’t exercised intensely before, exercise should not hurt and, in fact, you should feel energized afterward rather than exhausted.
The right type and intensity of exercise actually reverses the effects of arthritis, decreases pain, and increases energy levels. If you haven’t experienced this with exercise – regardless of your health condition – you need to re-evaluate how you exercise in order to get better results!
Metabolic Conditioning Explained
You now realize that metabolic conditioning exercise erases all of your excuses for not exercising and eliminates the top 4 exercise myths. But what exactly is MetCon exercise and how do you do it? MetCon is a type of conditioning exercise that elicits a specific hormonal and energy production response in your body. It is designed to improve the capability of the body to more efficiently and effectively deliver energy for activity.
It is characterized by short surges of high-intensity, short-duration exercise. The exercises are anaerobic in nature, performed at a speed that increases your heart rate to 80% to 90% of your maximal heart rate (that is, very intense, very fast). The exercises are performed in surges or bursts of activity lasting only from 20 to 60 seconds and then repeated with short, low intensity periods of rest between each exercise. The elevation of your heart rate combined with the bursts is the key to gaining the effects of metabolic conditioning exercise.
Metabolic conditioning is a general name for a specific technique of exercise. However, it goes by many different names including surge training, burst training, and high intensity interval training (HIIT). It has also been incorporated into several different branded exercise programs as well. This means that there are several different commercialized programs sharing the benefits of MetCon exercise but it is not necessary to purchase a program unless this will help motivate you to begin exercising.
There are many free resources online as well. A website that has become one of my favorites is 12 Minute Athlete (http://www.12minuteathlete.com/about/) founded by Krista Stryker. Check out her website for a lot more great information, a free ebook, a variety of workouts and video demonstrations. Follow her on twitter at @12minuteathlete. I am not personally or professionally connected to Krista in any way and I rarely personally recommend a specific service or website; however, I have personally used the information at this site and I know that it is a great resource for you.
A typical workout of this type lasts from 8 to 16 minutes with an average total of 4 to 15 minutes of actual exercise time! Now that is not slow, leisurely exercise; it is high intensity (think sprinting vs. jogging). But anybody can do this. If you have not exercised before or have a limiting health condition, you will have to modify the exercise you do; however, you can do it!
While metabolic conditioning exercise allows for much variety in the specific routines, I want to give you an example of a routine that I regularly perform for whole body fitness to give you an idea of what an actual routine looks like. This is not intended to give you step by step instructions or explanations of exercises but to give you a more specific understanding of the process.
A Typical Routine
My typical routines include six or seven different exercises such as: (1) toe taps, (2) runnng in place, (3) squat thrusts, (4) mountain climbers, (5) banded punches, and (6) squat jacks. I perform each exercise 3 times for 20 seconds with a 20 second rest in between each.
During the rest phase, I keep my body moving, just at a lower intensity, allowing my heart rate to reduce. Most importantly, each exercise is performed at your maximum speed with the intent of raising your heart rate to 80-90% of your maximal heart rate. You can find information about calculating your maximum heart rate here: http://www.digifit.com/heartratezones/maximum-heart-rate.asp
It looks like this:
20 seconds: Exercise 1
20 seconds: Rest
20 seconds: Exercise 1
20 seconds: Rest
20 seconds: Exercise 1
20 seconds: Rest
Repeat five more times with exercises 2 through 6.
This routine requires only 12 minutes total time and includes exactly 6 minutes of actual exercise time. It is amazingly quick and, when done properly, you will feel like you got the best workout of your life! In addition to a whole body workout like the one above, I also recommend that you create different routines that focus on specific body regions such as: upper body, lower body, and core. This allows for overall strengthening and toning, keeps your exercise from getting boring and prevents your body from plateauing at a certain level.
What About Me?
Maybe you are ready to shed the light of truth on the exercise myths in your life but you’re not sure if MetCon will work for you. The routine I described above may not work for you as stated. You may have an old injury that prevents you from using your knees aggressively (as in speed squats) or you may have a recently replaced joint. That doesn’t give you an out! All of these exercises can be modified for your current level of fitness.
Maybe you can’t do squat thrusts but you can bend your hips and knees as far as you are comfortable and then straighten them, coming up onto your toes. This modification may be intense enough to raise your heart rate. That is the key. Modify the movement for you and then perform the exercise at such a speed that you elevate your heart rate to 80-90% of your MHR. Your exercise doesn’t have to look like mine, it doesn’t have to be as intense as mine, it just has to raise your heart rate.
Why Is Metabolic Conditioning Better?
There are many reasons why I prefer high intensity interval training, not the least of which is the short amount of invested time! In fact, exercise myths disappear when Metabolic Conditioning is incorporated into your routine. However, most of the amazing and superior benefits of this type of exercise stem from the way in which it affects your metabolism; your hormonal system.
While low intensity, long duration exercise (such as jogging or going for a run) has some great health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, lowering resting heart rate, and aiding in detoxification, it also comes with some rather negative consequences.(5) It raises stress hormones like cortisol which stimulates appetite, is catabolic (breaks down muscle), increases fat storing, and slows down or inhibits exercise recovery. It decreases testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH), both necessary to build muscle and burn fat. Additionally, it has been shown to decrease immune function after exercise. Who wants to invest precious time and energy into exercise with results like that?
However, metabolic conditioning exercise produces the opposite, more desirable results. It results in increases in growth hormone and testosterone and decreases in the stress hormone cortisol. This supercharges your body’s fat burning and muscle building/toning, stops inflammation and reverses metabolic syndromes (diabetes, obesity, syndrome X, heart disease).
Another amazing benefit of MetCon is its superior fat loss benefits. Traditionally, most people have believed that if you want to lose fat then you must participate in a classic, old-school, low to moderate intensity cardio (aerobic) program. However, research(6,7,8) regularly demonstrates that high intensity short duration exercise consistently outperforms “classic” cardio time and time again.
A 1997 study showed that there was a significant loss in body fat in a group that exercised at a high intensity of 80-90% of maximal heart rate. There was no significant change in body fat found in the lower intensity group which exercised at 60-70% of maximal heart rate, with workloads being equal.
Another study looked at a group who exercised using metabolic conditioning over 12 weeks. This study found that subjects lost an average of .31 pounds of pure fat from their waistlines and 3.1 pounds of pure fat from their trunks in that time span!(7) This is not overall weight loss (which was even more) but pure fat loss.
This effect is due to the fact that with classic aerobic exercise, you only burn fat for the time that you are actively exercising AND you are burning fat at a slower pace. However, with MetCon you burn energy very rapidly and you continue to burn fat for up to 36 hours after completion of your exercise!
These are just some of the amazing benefits of metabolic conditioning exercise. Exercise is a vital component of an overall wellness lifestyle. I am all about efficiency and metabolic conditioning allows me to experience these amazing results with very little time invested. MetCon allows me to optimize the return on my investment to the highest level.
Stop making excuses. Stop lying to yourself about why you cannot exercise! Get out there today and begin to taking you level of wellness to new heights!
References for this article:
(2)British Journal of Sports Medicine April 2001;35:114-117
(3) Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; Dr. Martin Juneau
(5) Physiological Consequences of Extreme Aerobic Activity. Brian Sutton MS, MA, PES, CES, NASM-CPT | Nov 15, 2012. http://www.nasm.org/trainer-resources/articles/2012/11/15/physiological-consequences-of-extreme-aerobic-activity
(6) Bryner, R. W., R.C. Tome, I.H. Ullrish, and R.A. Yeater. The effects of exercise intensity on body composition, weight loss, and dietary composition in women. J. Am. Col.
(7) The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. Journal of Obesity. Volume 2012 (2012). http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobes/2012/480467/
(8) “Forget the jog slog and fit in a sprint for maximum weight loss results”