How often have you heard people say 'I don't have time to exercise'? (Or said it yourself!).
The common wisdom is that we have to exercise for hours a week to make any real difference. For years I ran the same story-line. With a busy life and often on the road, eventually I gave up trying to maintain gym memberships and for a long time the weight just kept creeping up.
Six years ago was Weight Watchers year for me, with excellent results (dropped 19 kg). As well as dietary changes, regular exercise was re-introduced - walking and/or running as many times a week as I could fit it in. However, I still had a mental block about strength training, still thought of it as too hard and time-consuming.
It wasn't until conversations with fitness and wellbeing specialist Lauren Parsons that I finally 'got it' that we only need to invest a few minutes a day to make a difference to our shape, our fitness levels and our longevity. Tapping into her expertise opened up a whole new range of fitness and health possibilities for she introduced me to 'snacking on exercise'.
'Hours in gyms per week won't give you the desired result', she said. 'The most important factor is not the amount of time you spend - but what you spend that time doing!'
She explained that all we need to do is build small components of strength training into our daily schedule. Even if we've only got a few minutes, a few exercises will make a difference - if we do large muscle-group activities.
Lauren: 'Rather than wasting time on ab crunches do squats, lunges and deadlifts to trim not just your tummy but your whole body!'
So my typical morning routine is a quick 3 minutes of press-ups and triceps dips while I wait for my first-thing-in-the morning coffee to percolate. No time spent getting into gym gear, no travel, just a quick 15 full press-ups and then another 15 lifting from the knees, followed by 2 sets of 10 triceps dips. Lauren tells me I should be adding in a few squats - they add another large muscle group. It's just a matter of building the habit - time is certainly not the issue.
Some other ideas on 1-2 minute exercise 'snacking' we can fit in throughout the day
* Take any opportunity to take the stairs
* Park further away from your destination
* Walk and/or cycle rather than drive to do your errands
* Use the toilet upstairs at the far end of the building
* Carry your groceries to the car rather than trolley them to the carpark
These tiny details add up and really do make a difference.
And what about public transport? Whenever I'm in a city where people walk a lot to catch trains, ferries or buses there seem to be less overweight people. Have you noticed it too, or is it my imagining?
Here are a few more pearls from Lauren:
* Strength Training is like your fountain of youth - it reverses virtually all the biological markers of ageing. It also reduces your risk of chronic disease and helps you maintain a toned lean body long-term.
* Focus on adding some intensity to your workouts in small intervals. Adding in short bursts of effort (for example, 20-30 seconds followed by a recovery (of 20 seconds to a minute) gives you a much better training effect and hormone response. It boosts your fitness and increases the calories you burn well after the workout is finished.
* For every hour that you sit, get up and move for 5 minutes or so. Ideally get outdoors and get moving.
* Research shows that those who combine strength and cardio training and diet control have far better success at keeping lost weight off over one year later than those who do cardio training and diet control alone.
I do recommend her ebook 'Overcome 7 Common Health And Fitness Myths & Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life.' (Available at laurenparsons.co.nz).
Also, I've persuaded her to come to Auckland the weekend of 12/13 October to run a Women's Retreat with me. More information on that here - we've only got a couple of spots left.