Exercise:  Low Effort, High Reward

The benefits of regular exercise are indisputable.  Maintaining reasonably good physical fitness is essential for feeling and looking good.  Now that Americans are increasingly sharing healthcare costs, in my opinion, it is also a civic obligation.

A number of years ago when I was doing a lot of hiking, I came up with the philosophy of low effort, high reward.  Not all trails are created equal, some are strenuous and long with less than a spectacular conclusion (view/place), while others are moderate and short leading to something awe inspiring.  I have applied this philosophy to exercise.

I do not have the physique of Adonis, but it is clear that most folks consider me fit.  My body does not reflect its middle age.  While I do truly enjoy the act of running outdoors and it is a big part of my life, my average gym workout is 30 minutes or less and seems to produce better fitness results than a 5-8 mile run.  This is backed up by a recent study by the Journal of Physiology that indicates 20-30 minutes of fairly strenuous exercise produces the best bang for the buck.

Getting in shape does take some effort, but probably not as much as one may think.  The important thing is to find a cardio exercise that is enjoyable and add some strength training.  Again, I like to run, but swimming, elliptical, biking, rowing, jumping rope, aerobics, or even power walking work.  Find an exercise that is at least somewhat enjoyable and let it become a part of your life.  After some time your body will begin to crave it, at least mine did after a few months.  Ideally working out should become recreational, something that is enjoyed.  It should also be convenient.  If you join a gym it should be close and/or a place you like to be.  Not all gyms are the same; find one that provides motivation to go.  I think it is also helpful to find a regular route for outdoor exercise; a pretty path or a pleasant route through town. Again, working out should be made to be as enjoyable and convenient as possible.  While I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money on gear and gadgets, some of these can enhance the experience and provide further motivation.  I like to challenge myself by simply using a stop watch or treadmill stats.  It’s fun to realize improvement.

My quick and dirty workout takes 25 minutes.

  • 3 reps of 3 different strength exercises w/ little recuperation and stretching in between
  • 2 miles on the treadmill in less than 16 minutes incorporating interval training

Currently I use a community gym that is a 5 minute walk from my door.  The total time invested from gearing up to stepping out of the shower is about 40 minutes.

I usually do this workout 2-5 times per week depending on the season and how comfortable the weather is for running outdoors.  Four times a week is adequate for results and fitness.  This really is minimal effort for the rewards of better sleep, more energy, and feeling and looking good.

Life is a series of small daily accomplishments that turn into big ones.