Hey Angels and Alphas,
Determining your lowest effective dose of exercise is something that every trainee, beginner and advanced, should do.
We know that sticking with a routine can be hard enough on its own, but we all know there are times in your life you’re going to have to take time off the gym for one reason or another. Maybe you’re going through a stressful transition in your life, maybe you’re quarantined at home, or maybe you have other things to focus on.
That being said, the concept of your “lowest effective dose of exercise” becomes relevant when you’re trying to stay in shape during a stressful period or you want to
maintain your exercise habit even when you don’t have time to dedicate more effort.
When it comes to exercise, your lowest effective dose is the smallest amount of work needed to achieve the desired result or maintain current performance.
That’s why your lowest effective dose of exercise is closely connected to your goal – because it’s relative to your goal. If you want to improve your cardio, for example, you’d know that you need at least two sessions a week to keep progressing and maintain your cardiovascular health.
In times like these, this is especially relevant since we’re all under emotional and mental stress. That’s why sometimes, the best thing we can do is calibrate our physical efforts on staying healthy and well. Exercise positively influences our health, but without a doubt, too much exercise during a period of high stress is a recipe for disaster.
Here’s why your lowest effective dose of exercise is effective.
First of all, too much stress will backfire on you.
Physical, emotional, and mental stress are cumulative. And while working out is definitely great for you, physical stress can reach out to other parts of your life and make it hard to handle. If you’re experiencing physical stress on a daily basis and you’re not recovering correctly, this can have adverse effects on your mental and emotional health. It can even negatively affect your immunity.
Right now, we all have to make sure we’re paying more attention to staying healthy, managing stress, reducing inflammation, and supporting our recovery and our immune function. Your lowest effective dose of exercise does exactly that.
Second, your lowest effective dose of exercise can also bring you results.
Time-efficient, minimalist workouts are actually on the rise right now. They enable you to stay consistent, make a fitness habit stick more easily, and achieve a result that you can use to build on. Once already having built the consistency muscle in your psyche, moving on to another form of exercise (or just heavier exercise) will be quite easier. More exercise doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Third, it makes exercising feel more doable.
We’re bombarded on social media with pictures of incredible physiques and personal record videos. This can easily overwhelm any beginner into building so much anxiety that they never want to start in the first place. We often go into things with an all-in mindset and say “if I’m not working out for an hour, why am I even going?”
However, this thinking has its pros and cons. One thing’s for sure – knowing and implementing your lowest effective dose of exercise will help you get used to the fact that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Four 15-minute workout sessions in a week trump sitting on the couch any day.
How do I find my lowest effective dose of exercise?
There are a couple of factors that go into finding your minimum effective dose of exercise, and these include your age, gender, height, genetics, body composition,
goals, and more.
And let’s be honest – you don’t want to be that person targeting the spot between “just enough” and “not enough.” What you want to do is be productive and proactive, finding the right balance while listening to trial and error.
Think about it – how much exercise does it take you to feel sore and tired? How much exercise do you need to start feeling more energetic? Listen and pay attention to these clues, your body is signaling you how you’re feeling all the time, especially when we’re talking about your body responding to the physical stress of a workout. If you’re feeling refreshed and vibrant after a short session, that’s a clue that you’re near your LED.
The best way to find your sweet spot is to hop on a fitness schedule and track how you’re feeling every day through journaling. Do it for two weeks, all while taking measures and writing about factors such as sleep quality, appetite, resting heart rate, post-workout energy levels, soreness, and more.
Other than that, your lowest effective dose of exercise will also be determined by your overall goal. Here’s what you should know based on your fitness aspirations…
If you want to maintain your strength…
The golden rule, as pointed out by the American College of Sports Medicine, seems to be 2 days of exercise a week for maintaining strength with a rep range of 8-12. Meaning using a weight that feels challenging after the 8 th rep. Ideally, you want to work each muscle group at least twice a week to maintain your hypertrophy and strength.
If you want to lose weight…
You should know that nutrition would be a much better thing to focus on during a period when you can’t work out yet want to lose weight. That being said, conditioning workouts are a powerful weight loss tool, and they’re also pretty short. How many of them you do every week depends entirely on you and how much you can handle, but two 30-minute sessions a week seems to produce measurable changes in body fat rather quickly.
If you want to stay healthy…
Then the best thing you could do is to refer to the standards for physical activity by the world authorities. Ideally, adults should be looking at 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 90-150 minutes of rigorous aerobic physical activity to achieve health benefits. This translates to three 50-minute moderate/low-intensity workouts and three 25-minute high-intensity workouts.