Like most things in life, too much of anything can cause harm and exercise is no different.

I like to think about exercise as if it were a drug, say panadol for instance. Not enough panadol and it will not produce the desired effect, too much might actually kill you. You must have the exact dosage suitable for your own personal needs.

Thinking about exercise in the same manner helps us to recognise that exercise is individual. What might be the right type and dose of exercise for one, might actually be too much or too little for someone else.

So how do I know how much exercise I need?

There are many factors at play here, so firstly we have to identify whether it is that you are exercising too much or too little.

Too little exercise?

Are you overweight? Do you struggle to breathe from walking up stairs or hills? Do walk less than 10k steps per day?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you definitely aren’t getting enough exercise.

The primary focus of exercise initially should be to improve your quality of life and to increase everyday function and performance. Performance means different things for different people — for you it might be playing with the kids at the park or just getting through the weekly shopping. There shouldn’t be any everyday tasks that slow you down or that you have to avoid due to your physical fitness.

If you currently aren’t exercising enough, here’s how you get started. Start by increasing how much you walk on a day-to-day basis. Park further away from the shops and walk through the car park, take the stairs instead of the elevator and plan at least a couple of deliberate walks per week. One should aim for a minimum of 10k steps per day with 12-15k being optimal.

Once this has been established for 3 to 4 weeks I would start doing some internet research into finding a training facility that suits your needs. There are many benefits to introducing weight training into your exercise, but you’ll want someone you can trust to show you how to go about it properly depending on what you want to achieve.

Adding load to your body by lifting weights is the best form of exercise. It even reduces the amount of time you need to spend exercising thanks to the added intensity, and forces the body to adapt to the new stress. Additionally, it will spark up your metabolism and give you a great kick-start towards improving your everyday performance.

Too much exercise?

Are you training everyday? Do you constantly feel tired and void of energy? Have you struggled to considerably improve your performance in the gym? Do you spend more than 75 mins training on any given day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may well be overdoing it.

To get back on track, start by addressing rest days (or lack there of). You don’t get strong and fit from training! You get strong and fit by recovering from training!

If you aren’t resting at least 2 to 3 full days per week then this applies to you. Personally I like a day on/day off approach, but having rest days in anywhere will make a huge difference to how your body recovers.

Spending more than 75 minutes training is, in my opinion, either overdoing it or very poor programming. The only exception would be for top level athletes who train for specificity. For your every day person, it’s completely unnecessary.

A basic session might look like this:

  • 15 minute warm up consisting of joint mobility and gently increasing baseline vitals
  • 30 – 45 minute strength component choosing 2 to 3 compound movements
  • 15 – 30 minutes of cardio-vascular conditioning

Becoming self-aware

No matter which extreme you fall into, balance can only be found if you listen to your body and adhere to any warnings your body sends you.

Pay attention to your body and make the appropriate changes as necessary. You only have one life, you only have one body — get the most out both by prescribing exercise as if it were a lifesaving drug.