Why your exercise goals may need a rethink
If you are exercising to achieve your ‘perfect’ physique, it’s time to change tack.
Washboard abs, toned triceps and bulging biceps – there’s no doubt that much of the terminology around the benefits of exercise focuses on appearance.
But working out is more than just aesthetics – and experts say there is much to gain from focusing instead on feeling good and getting stronger.
The undeniable health and wellbeing benefits of exercise
Stop doing a thousand sit-ups every night to achieve that six pack and instead focus on being fit and healthy all round, says exercise physiologist Amanda Bisk.
“Number one is always about the feeling you get when you working out rather than just working out for looks and that is so important because it’s so more motivating in the long run,” says Amanda, of Perth’s Fresh Body Fit Mind.
Research shows exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.
The sentiment is shared by Australian Fitness Academy managing director Steve Hore, who encourages people to “mix it up” to maximise fitness and health.
“It’s important to exercise for health because you have a number of systems in the body that all need to be worked so they maintain or improve their function,” he says.
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How to exercise for better health
Most experts agree variety is the key when it comes to health.
“Circuit training is very effective because it combines strength and cardio and will generally use full body exercises” says Steve.
“You might do skipping, then a strength exercise, then on to something like battle ropes or a shuttle run.”
Steve recommends changing the intensity for maximum benefit and recovery.
Amanda says to also focus on compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups.
“Compound exercises where you are using a lot of muscles all at once are really beneficial,” she says.
“Things like a squat is great, burpees are my all-time favourite. They are hard for some people and there are regressions you can do to make the exercise easier, but they work so many muscles and you can adapt the exercise to boost your fitness and cardio.
“I love also anything to do with planking, front plank, side plank, it’s a really good exercise for stability and control on our body.”
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The beauty of mixing up your exercises
In general, experts agree any exercise is better than nothing.
However, working on one muscle for size or definition is not ideal and overuse can sometimes lead to injury.
So just doing sit-ups won’t get you that six pack, nor will it improve your overall health.
“Sit-ups have their place but there are so many other core exercises that challenge your whole body more and you will get a better workout from,” says Amanda.
“I’m also not a fan of calf raises as they don’t really do much. Running and walking upstairs will tone your calves but will work so many more muscle groups in your body.”
Steve says bicep curls are another exercise that should not be a focus.
“They are great for looks because you’re building them up, but as an overall health benefit you get minimal outcome,” he warns.
Written by Alex White.