Week 3: OPTIMIZE YOUR EXERCISE
Reaping the energizing rewards of physical activity doesn’t require a super-intense workout routine. Research suggests that doing aerobics or a mix of cardio and strength-training exercise just three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes per session can give you the lift you’re looking for. Making your movements more mindful is also important. For this third and final part of your program, focus on getting the right kind and amount of exercise—not too much and not too little (both of which will wear you out). Here’s how.
DAY 1: Seize the play. Opportunities to move are everywhere, but often overlooked. So don’t just resist the rock-star parking spot for one farther away, look for all kinds of ways to be more active—playing catch with your kids, biking through the park—simply because doing so feels good. “It’s a wonderful upward cycle,” says Shirley Archer, M.A., a fitness educator in Singer Island, Fla., and author of Fitness 9 to 5 (Chronicle Books). “As you move, it stimulates your circulation, strengthens your joints and conditions your muscles so you feel better and want to do more.”
DAY 2: Step right up. A recent Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study found that the average American takes 5,117 steps a day—about half that of the Australians and Swiss, and about 2,000 behind the Japanese. That means we’re just barely out of sedentary territory. Your mission: Get a pedometer and start working toward the ideal target of at least 10,000 steps a day—a simple goal that will boost circulation, build muscles, lubricate joints and support the lungs and heart.
DAY 3: Plug in. Technology isn’t always an energy enemy. You can work out to Wii Fit, sign up for yogaglo.com (a subscription website offering unlimited yoga classes) or get a whole host of fitness apps (Archer recommends LoseIt for tracking diet and exercise; iSteps, which turns your iPhone into a pedometer; and her own Strength and Toning Deck app for illustrated exercises wherever you are). Don’t forget about music, either; studies have found that people who exercise to carefully chosen tunes enjoy their workouts more, and even push themselves harder without realizing it. So make a mix of your favorites and let your spirits—and exercise—soar.
DAY 4: Be a badass. As long as you’re in good health, try to get a couple of high-intensity workouts—ones that boost heart rate, respiration, resting metabolism and overall energy levels—each week. That means no more zoning out on the treadmill at 2 miles per hour or doing the same old asanas day after day.
DAY 5: Get the balance right. The best way to build strength and energy is to balance intensity with rest. Too much of either will have you jangled or deadened. So go for the hard-core push of a sweaty dozen laps around the park one day, but alternate that with a more calming day of doing, say, a Viniyoga class—or even nothing at all. Our bodies were made for interval training, and really respond to the ebbs and flows of our activity choices. “The body becomes stronger because we stress it and then allow it to repair when we rest,” Archer says. Just five minutes in nature can lift your spirits.
DAY 6: Take it outside. Research in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that outdoor exercise lowers stress, boosts self-esteem and improves mood, and a meta-analysis found that just five minutes in nature has a positive effect. Whether you bike, hike, skate, swim or garden, try getting out at least once a week or whenever weather allows.
DAY 7: Trust your instincts. It’s crucial to modify your activities according to how you’re feeling. If you’re drained, go for a moderate walk or simply take a day off to rest. Overexertion is counterproductive and will only steal away more energy. “The ego says, ‘I need to get my third workout in this week even if I’m catching a cold, otherwise my ass is gonna drop,’ ” notes Fred DeVito, co-founder of Exhale Spa and its Core Fusion program in New York City, “but the wise voice says, ‘I really should go home, have a cup of chicken soup and go to bed early so I can fight this thing.’ ” In fact, listening to that inner wisdom is the key to unleashing your energy at every turn. When you’re tuned in to what your mind and body need from one moment to the next, you’ll make choices that take you from big-time blorft to beyond blissed.