Look for the Exercise Sweet Spot

June 8, 2012 in Exercise, Fitness by Mary Ireland

For someone who wants to start an exercise program or those new to exercising, the process may seem a little daunting. I have been an avid exerciser since my early twenties and have learned over the years that you cannot always count on the latest research data to apply to you. The key word in that sentence is you. Everybody is different and you must find what the sweet spot is for you. I like that phrase sweet spot. As defined in Wikipedia, a sweet spot is a place where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort. If you have ever played softball, baseball or tennis, you know how nice it is to find the sweet spot.

In my earlier blog post, Moving toward Health, I talk about how you can get the benefits of exercise (reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, etc.) with just 20 minutes of exercise a day. If you are comfortable with that amount of exercise, then find your sweet spot activity or activities and start moving. For those who are interested in deriving more benefits and investing a bit more time in exercise, you might be interested in the article Moderation as the Exercise Sweet Spot. This article discusses getting the maximum benefit from your exercise investment. The good news, like the 20 minute threshold is, you don't have to devote all of your free time to working out just to obtain benefits.

My sweet spot in exercise is high intensity aerobics -- my workout lasts 20 minutes and I work at a high level of perceived exertion. See my blogs on this subject for more information. An article in the June, 2012 issue of The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found it to be more effective than moderate intensity training in a study of overweight young women ages 19 - 20 years old.

My usual routine is to do my high intensity training three days a week and do weight training three days a week. I like high intensity because it is short -- although when you are exerting yourself at a high level, a minute can last an incredibly long time -- it is exhilarating and it is extremely effective for me. I know other who hate it because of the intensity. They would much rather work out a longer time at a slower pace. I tried that once because I read research that claimed a person burned more fat on longer, less intense workouts. For me, that was an exercise myth -- longer, less intense exercising really didn't work for me, either physically or mentally.

An exercise myth that has been recently disproved is that you should not do aerobics and weight training on the same day. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that there is no credibility to the theory of "muscle interference" or "exercise antagonism" that was used as the basis of the exercise myth. The theory maintained that weight training interferes with the body's response to endurance exercise, while aerobics blunts muscles' ability to strengthen due to weight training.

From personal experience, I can verify that running after a hard leg workout, isn't nearly as enjoyable of running with "fresh legs." Conversely, I was never as strong during my weight workout after I ran. I found that a good mix for me was an upper body workout and running or whatever aerobic workout that I wanted to do. You however, may have a totally different experience. The most important thing is to find your sweet spot and enjoy it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention an article that discusses findings from genetics researchers at the Pennington Biomecial Research Center that approximately ten percent of the population might have negative reactions to exercise that would typically be considered to be in a healthful range. As the article states, "Nothing works for everyone. Be alert; listen to your body." But I would suggest that you a least give exercise a try before you decide you are in that approximately ten percent. Who knows, you might just stumble upon your sweet spot, really enjoy exercise and find that you are in the 90% that exercise does work for.