The 10 most Googled exercise questions, answered.
For those of us tentatively dipping our toes into the shark-infested waters of fitness, gym memberships, workout DVDs, weight-loss plans and muscle fitness for the first time, it can seem like a bewildering minefield of misinformation, claims and counter-claims. Everyone has an opinion or an agenda. Google is not that much help either, with many first page results on the top searches filled with psuedo-science and hollow ‘get-thin-(or ripped)-quick’ claims. So we thought we’d seek some expert advice on your behalf, from former athlete and Protein World nutrition advisor, Omar Walker. Thank us later.
- “Why does exercise matter?”
Scientific research has shown that at least 15 minutes per day, or 90 minutes per week, of moderate-intensity exercise increased life expectancy by three years. Like nutrition, exercise is a vital part of healthy lifestyle. Exercise has endless benefits, both physically and mentally and should always be a part of your daily routine.
- “Which exercise programme is best for me?”
What is right for you depends on a variety of factors, one of which is personal goals. Make exercise decisions based on what you want to achieve, for example if your goal is to lose fat and tone up, you should be doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you want to improve cardiovascular health, then try aerobic training. For an increase in muscle mass, you need to be lifting heavy.
- “Where to begin with exercise?”
Like anything else, begin with something that you will feel comfortable with. There is nothing worse than throwing yourself in at the deep end and stumbling at the first hurdle. Begin with something you find easy and something you enjoy. Listen to your body and only progress on to the next stage when you feel happy to do so. Taking part in classes is a fun way to get involved in fitness when you’re new, and the community spirit can also be an encouraging to try more.
- “How does exercise help mental health?”
There are both benefits and negatives associated with mental health an exercise. On one hand, there is a wealth of scientific research hailing the benefits of exercise on mental health, helping to reduce the symptoms of several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Exercise has been shown to boost serotonin and release endorphins, which can reduce depression and stress, respectively. The negative is often linked to an excessive amount of physical activity, which can lead to overtraining syndrome. This syndrome carries similar negative psychological symptoms found in those who suffer with depression. A balanced exercise plan is therefore key.
- “Do you need protein for exercise?”
Protein is crucial for exercise. When we exercise, our muscles are put under physical stress, which essentially causes micro tears within the working muscles. Don’t be scared by this! These micro tears are required to help your muscles grow. Micro tears are strengthened and repaired during a process called muscle protein synthesis. This process is responsive to exercise and for it to work optimally, it is essential to consume enough protein within your diet.
- “Which exercises help with weight loss?”
9 times out of 10, when we say we want to lose weight, we really mean we want to lose fat. The most effective exercises for fat loss are those which are high in intensity. Scientific research suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is proven to significantly reduce fat mass. Circuit training with a combination of resistance and bodyweight exercises is a great option for this. Try switching between reps, sets, timings and weights to avoid any potential weight loss plateaus.
- “Which exercises help with weight gain?”
In terms of exercise, to gain muscle mass, resistance exercise is the best way to go. In particular hypertrophy-specific training. This is a method of resistance training which requires someone to use 70-80% of their one rep max, for anything between eight to ten reps, and three to four sets. This causes the fastest possible muscle growth. In all honesty, weight gain is more related to nutrition. How you are distributing your macros and how many calories you are consuming massively impact on whether you put on size, as a calorie deficit won’t support any muscle gains.
- “Is there a difference in exercise for women and exercise for men?”
The short answer is no, as both men and women can do any type of exercise. However, there are specific male and female characteristics that make some exercises more challenging for the opposite sex. For example, females are naturally more flexible than males and may find it easier to do exercises such as yoga or pilates. On the other hand, men can naturally produce greater force than women, and therefore may find resistance training easier.
- “Can you exercise without a gym?”
100% yes! There are dozens of exercises that can be done away from the gym or without gym equipment. Don’t be tricked into thinking the gym is the only place for exercise. You can go for runs and do bodyweight exercise, which can all be just as challenging, if not more than exercises restricted to the gym. You can also use things like tables, beds, and chairs, as well as full water bottles, cans of food etc to up weight and make exercises harder, without having to spend time at a gym!
- “What are the exercise results for cardio and weight loss?”
Traditionally, cardio was thought to be a great type of exercise for weight loss. However, more recently, it has been found that cardio alone has little benefit on weight loss when compared to a high intensity exercise. If you enjoy cardio and also want to lose weight, try combining your cardio workouts with resistance exercises or as part of a HIIT circuit. Studies have shown that resistance exercise followed by cardio can have positive effects on fat loss.