To hit or not hit the gym that is the question…

“Bro, wanna know my secret to having Dwayne the Rock Johnson sized biceps? I hit the gym all day everyday.”

“To get my summer 2k17 bod I need to run three miles five times a week because I’ve gotta look good for Chad.”

The amount of time an individual spends engaging in fitness related activities says a lot about that individual’s fitness mindset. It plays a major role in the quantity of fitness improvements their body experiences, the degree to which an individual experiences social physique anxiety, and that individual’s ability to cope with said level of social physique anxiety.

With this in mind, the dreaded question must be asked…. How many workout sessions per week does it take to help an individual develop society’s so called “perfect body”? Well, my cardio bunnies and Muscle Milk bros you’re all probably thinking, “I would have to go to the gym everyday at least twice a day for the rest of my life if I want to have a body shape that is anything close to society’s irrational concept of an ideal body shape.”

Surprisingly, this common belief that one has to maintain a strenuous workout routine in order to see real fitness results is not necessarily true due to a study that was concisely summarized by a New York Times blogger, Gretchen Reynolds. Reynolds describes a study in which University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers placed elderly women into three fitness categories where each category was required to engage is a set amount of workout sessions each week. Category one was required to participate in two workouts each week, category two was required to participate in four workouts each week, and category three was required to participate in six workouts each week. While reading Reynold’s blog, I transitioned into a state of disbelief upon reading the results of this study and finding out that working out practically everyday of the week (or in this study’s case participating in six workout sessions each week) produces the same fitness improvements as the category that rarely exercises (or in this study’s case participating in two-four workout sessions each week).

So, why is it that I can partake in physical activity only two to four times a week yet end up with the same hot bod as an individual who exercises all day everyday? Well, according to this study when people exercise all day everyday and constantly exert all of their energy into these long workouts, people become fatigued. This leads those individuals to not want to continue exercising and prevents enjoyment in physical activity. Consequently, individuals who only workout two to four times a week end up responding to fitness activities in the opposite way by feeling more energized, intrinsically motivated to exercise, and not exceed their workout capacity. This analysis from the study in Reyonld’s blog is very relevant because I know first hand how different the world of fitness is when your exercise schedule is intensely vs. softly filled.

Growing up I played travel softball and during this time I had to practice/play seven days a week for an average of fourteen hours each week. While I loved playing softball and miss it dearly, I definitely do not miss having to maintain such a rigorous workout routine. There were multiple times where I would loathe going to practices/games because I became so physically and mentally “burned out” that it made the one thing I enjoyed feel like a chore. However, now that I have the freedom to control my workout schedule I feel that I no longer see exercising as a chore but as a blessing.

Now you maybe wondering, “despite the fact that working out all day everyday does NOT provide individuals with an ideal body physique, why do people still continue to maintain demanding workout regimes?” Well, the reason for this was discovered by two Southern Utah University researchers because they found that people who scrupulously exercise are simultaneously experiencing very high levels of social physique anxiety. As a consequence of experiencing such high levels the only way these individuals know how to survive with such elevated levels of social physique anxiety is through the excessiveness of their exercise habits (Frederick & Morrison, 1996; Sabiston, Sedgwick, Crocker, Kowalski,& Mack, 2007).

Therefore, my cardio bunnies and Muscle Milk bros don’t overexert yourself trying to get that summer 2k17 bod or Dwayne the Rock Johnson biceps. Simply just exercise in a way that is manageable for you and your “perfect body” is sure to appear.