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what is the perfect exercise routine?

Regular movement is a familiar pillar of wellness that has endured many trends [let’s just remember the prancercise for a moment] + expert opinions from how long to workout to how hard to workout - all claiming to have “cracked the code” on a one-size-fits-all exercise routine. 

But if you’ve been around Simply Nourished long enough, you know we never advocate for a blanket approach that doesn’t account for unique personalization. Instead, our approach to exercise is beautifully nuanced, especially as we consider our clients who struggle with over-exercise [stressor-cize!] or who have an aversion to a sterile routine.

what is the purpose of exercise?

Exercise is one of the most potently beneficial activities for health. It improves cognitive function, cardiovascular health, mood, energy, metabolic health, muscle mass, and prevents chronic disease. It has even been dubbed medicinal due to its impressive and far-reaching benefits. 

why is exercise so beneficial?

The secret lies in mitochondria: the tiny-but-mighty batteries of our cells that produce energy, hormones, and influence our metabolism. Damaged or impaired mitochondria are present in every single chronic disease, and contribute to accelerated aging + decreased activity tolerance. If you feel completely drained after your workouts, you may have impaired mitochondria.

Different intensities of exercise strengthens, protects and increases mitochondria, promoting longevity in every system of the body. However, overworking mitochondria with too much or too intense of exercise can damage them and lead to a high load of stress on the body. 

As you thoughtfully develop an exercise routine, it is important to keep the health of your mitochondria top priority to ensure you are recharging rather than hindering their power.

how does exercise intensity impact mitochondrial health?

  • low-intensity exercise [heart rate ≤ zone 1]:  protects mitochondria

  • moderate intensity exercise [heart rate = zone 2]: strengthens mitochondria + makes them more efficient

  • high-intensity exercise [heart rate ≥ zone 3]: increases mitochondria

Strength training, resistance training AND cardio training all benefit the mitochondria in different ways within each of these intensities, amplifying the impact of training.. 

how long should I exercise for maximum benefit?

Aim to exercise within your target heart rate zone for at least 20 minutes during your workout, allowing time to warm up to this intensity. Note your heart rate may fluctuate between zones during your workout. 

If you are unsure of your heart rate zones, a good rule of thumb is the sentence test: if you can say a 12-word sentence [i.e., “she walked through the park, enjoying the warm sunshine and birds chirping”] without stopping, you are likely in zone 1 or below. If you can say it with effort and possibly a small pause, you are in zone 2. If you can’t say it without stopping for air, you are likely in zone 3 or above. 

so what IS the perfect exercise routine?

The perfect exercise routine incorporates a variety of intensities and activities that spark JOY + support mitochondrial health. 

To create your perfect exercise routine that you can maintain for life:

  1. Create a “menu” of movement activities that you enjoy doing categorized by intensity, noting that some activities could fall under all 3 categories depending on how hard you push yourself. Aim to include a varied mix of strength, resistance training, and cardio. 

  • example: 

    • low-intensity menu [zone 1 or below]: 

      • walking, yoga, gardening, pilates

    • moderate intensity menu [zone 2]: 

      • brisk walking, strength training, cycling, hiking, skiing, jogging

    • high-intensity menu [zone 3 or above]: 

      • HIIT, cycling, running, strength training

2. Look at your weekly schedule to determine the best times to exercise depending on your obligations + appointments.

3. Begin plugging in activities from your movement menu, prioritizing different intensity movements from one day to the next

  • here is a sample exercise routine using the menus above:

    • sunday: yoga [low intensity]

    • monday: cycling [moderate intensity]

    • tuesday: HIIT with weights [high intensity]

    • wednesday: brisk walking [moderate intensity]

    • thursday: pilates [low intensity]

    • friday: strength training [high intensity]

    • saturday: hiking [moderate intensity]

Notice in this schedule that there are 2 high-intensity days, 2 low-intensity days, and 3 moderate-intensity days. By varying your exercise intensity and activities, you will avoid the mental and physical burnout that occurs with over-exercising or a stale exercise routine. You will also reap the maximum benefits of movement!

Consider carving out some time to put pen to paper and brainstorm your perfect exercise routine based on what you love to do + what is realistic for you.

This is just a sample of what we cover in our online membership, The Table. 

Not only do we discuss exercise routines to keep stress low and encourage longevity, we also discuss how to tailor your exercise routine to your cycle to add another layer of personalization. Click here to join the waitlist for our upcoming quarter and see what all the hype is about! 

And, because we can’t help ourselves, if you are interested in learning the best ways to fuel your workouts for optimal performance, we built a tiny tutorial just for you!


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