See MORE RESULTS & Get MORE COMPLIMENTS on How You Look Doing LESS WORK & Spending LESS TIME in The Gym!

I hate spending hours upon hours working out everyday!  Sounds kind of strange coming from a fitness expert, doesn’t it?  

Well, the truth is, I am a fitness expert, but I’m also a regular person who works full time, enjoys personal time, and doesn’t want her life to revolve around 2 hour workouts…  Make sense?

There is a common misunderstanding regarding exercise“more is better.”  It’s kind of like the old saying, 

“No pain.  No Gain.”  

Both are completely FALSE when it comes to exercise for weight loss, fitness, and even performance.  

I’m not saying you can just go through the motions and not put any effort into your workouts, or that you can just workout once or twice a week and say that’s enough to transform your body into a beautiful, tight, toned physique that turns heads and makes your friends think you’ve discovered a secret formula or hired the best plastic surgeon in town. 

However, there is a right and wrong way to approach your exercise program… 

That’s where MEL comes in.

MEL actually stands for Minimum Effective Load, a term coined by the Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus® exercise machines and a very influential figure in the exercise science world.  Jones defined the minimum effective load as “the smallest load needed to get the desired outcome.”1 In other words, how much weight do you need to lift to get the result (strength gain, lean muscle development, fat loss) that you desire.  He also goes on to show why doing any more is simply wasted effort at best and detrimental to results or even harmful at worst…

This same approach can be applied to how often you exercise and how hard you push yourself.  And, it’s not just limited to weight lifting exercises.  It applies to all forms of exercise, although then it’s generally referred to as Minimum Effective Dosage (MED).  

Let me explain it another way that we can all relate to…

Let’s say you have a headache and you just can’t take it anymore so you decide to take some Excedrin®.  The correct dosage is 2 caplets. Taking 20 caplets doesn’t make the headache go away any better or faster.  In fact, at that extreme dosage there will probably be some pretty nasty side effects, right?

Minimum effective dosage exists for exercise as well, although the appropriate dosage varies based on your fitness level and goal(s). 

Nevertheless, it is important to realize that no matter who you are, over-training will not deliver faster and better results.  Instead, it will lead to injury and/or burnout.  Trust me, I’ve seen it first hand, and I’ve watched those that have ignored my advice fall completely “off the wagon” and lose all the results they worked so hard to achieve.  It’s a real shame…  

Your wisest choice is to practice moderation and consistency using the MED and MEL training principles.

“So, How Much Exercise Is Enough?”

No one is going to be surprised to hear that we don’t exercise enough as a population.  Oh yeah, and we eat way too many calories based on the fact that our daily movement generally consists of walking to and from the fridge.  Ha!  

We have all heard the obesity statistics and they’re atrocious, so let’s not beat that dead horse.  Let’s just get down to what works to lose weight and get fit, shall we?

First, going from nothing to something is, well, something.  Meaning, if you haven’t been exercising for 20 years and you decide to dust off the old workout shoes, just going through the motions and performing corrective exercises 3 times per week is a GREAT start!

You simply don’t need to do insane workout DVDs or go to extreme alpha high performance classes.  Getting your butt kicked doesn’t mean you’re getting a good workout.  In fact, it WILL ultimately be detrimental in the long run…

Take a look at these fun facts… 

While many folks will initially lose weight if they engage in 60 minutes of non-stop daily exercise, any gains will eventually be eroded by factors like burnout, injury, and boredom.  This reality is exemplified by conclusions drawn from a 2009 study performed on sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal women that forced a dramatic increase in their amount and intensity of daily exercise: “…we observed no difference in the actual and predicted weight loss with 4 and 8 KKW of exercise (72 and 136 minutes respectively), while the 12 KKW (194 minutes) produced only about half of the predicted weight loss.”2 This study offers us another clear example of how exceeding the minimum effective dosage does NOT deliver greater results -- quite the opposite in fact.

By the way, I’m going to tell you that 72 minutes is too long of a workout for most people.  Studying exercise in a laboratory is much different than analyzing workouts that are crowded in between shuttling kids around, working, making dinners, and having a life.  

I generally recommend about 10 - 20 minutes of light bodywork (foam rolling & stretching) and movement prep (mobility & warm-up exercises) followed by about 20-30 minutes of metabolic resistance training for maximum fat loss and body shaping results.

Author Tim Ferriss writes in The 4-Hour Body that “More is not better.  Indeed, your greatest challenge will be resisting the temptation to do more.”1 If on your exercise journey you blast out of the gate at top speed with an intensity that you can’t possibly sustain, you WILL burn out and likely give up. 

Remember, what you do every day is more important than what you do every once in a while.  Those everyday activities may not be terribly exciting while you are doing them, they may not feel like you are making progress, but give the compound effect time to work.  Your effort will pay off.  You will become leaner, stronger, more fit, and others will begin to notice.  

Take care of your body and your mind by practicing the minimum effective dosage strategy and you will achieve your goals…for life!

 

References:

  • Ferriss, Timothy. The 4-Hour Body. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. p. 18-19.
  • Church, T.S., Martin, C.K., Thompson, A.M., Earnest, C. P. Catherine, R. M., Blair, S. N. Changes in weight, waist circumference and compensatory responses with different doses of exercise among sedentary, overweight postmenopausal women. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4515. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.004515.
Brynn Anglin