Are your workouts too intense? Pros and cons of intense exercise

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Does excessive exercise exist?

For most people, the response is a big NO. In developed countries, we eat too much, sit too much, and center our life around sedentary activities. Framed this way, excessive exercise does not exist. Most of us benefit from more walking, more running, more biking, and more weight-lifting, any time of the day.

What happens if we don’t listen to our body and try to push our limits? Let’s go through recent studies to see the consequences.

First, intense exercise is usually defined by prolonged exercise at more than 85% of our maximum heart rate. For example, a 35 year old male would typically have a maximum of 185 beats per minute (bpm). 30mn of running, boxing or biking at more than 157bpm is a session of intense exercise. A common formula to get your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age. This is also equivalent to zone 4.5 to zone 5 on a watch with a heart rate monitor. This can give you a rough estimation if you usually do moderate or intense exercise.

Past the definition of intense exercise, results differ greatly, depending on what you are looking at.

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Biking to work

Commuting with a bike is a fun and healthy life choice

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Going to the gym or a sports facility costs time and money. Many commit to the investment, others don’t have the time or the discipline. For the latter, it is only weeks, months or years later they realize the poor health choice.

An alternative is to include a fitness activity in your daily routine. This can be cooking, cleaning up, gardening or playing daily outside with kids. It can be also walking or cycling to work.

Walking with a combination of public transport is accessible and involves little preparation to the daily routine. It is a nice way to be a bit more active.

Cycling to work can bring even more benefits. It improves your cardiovascular system, decreases risk of Type 2 diabetes, increases insulin sensitivity, helps manage body weight, helps fight depression and mood changes and reduces all-cause mortality. A Danish study showed that the 45,000 adults aged 50-65 years who regularly cycled to work or for leisure had between 11-18 percent fewer heart attacks over the course of a 20-year follow-up. The analysis indicated that some protection against heart disease was achieved with as little as 30 minutes of biking per week.

Cycling is also a low-impact activity, good for those who have knee or shin splints problems.

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Improving health with Tabata workouts

A 4mn workout shows greater improvements in fitness than 1 hour jogging.

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We all should target 90 minutes of exercise every week.

What happens when life commitments get in the way? Kids, work or emergencies can make us postpone or cancel a workout.

If you often lack the time, you can still get the training benefit with only 4 minutes of exercise.

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