The RealFoodStew Challenge is aimed specifically at improving your health.
Here's some good news: You don't need to exercise a lot to be physically healthy.
You can approach maximal health by doing only one short high-intensity (glycogen-depleting) workout per week.
Your mental health is another thing. For that, some daily low-intensity exercise for 30 to 45 minutes will go a long way toward improving and stabilizing your mood and it will enhance your mental acuity.
So to recap, exercise that improves your health includes:
- Infrequent high-intensity glycogen-depleting exercise (e.g. weight training "to failure", or some type of sprinting)
- Frequent low-intensity fat-burning exercise (e.g. walking, or running if you can do it at an easy pace)
Fitness is not Health
Stress-and-recovery is good, chronic stress, not so much.
Many common exercise regimes qualify as chronic stress. These regimes improve your fitness while diminishing your overall health to some degree. That doesn't mean don't do them! It means you should recognize the chronically-stressful exercise for what it is: something that improves your fitness, and what it isn't: something that maximizes your overall health.
The reason why walking every day is "good" and running briskly for the same amount of time each day is not-so-good for your overall health is because walking is low-intensity enough for you to avoid chronic stress.
I know some people who are triathletes who train and train and train. They wouldn't have it any other way. They enjoy the camaraderie and getting a "runner's high" every once in a while. They also catch a lot of colds and get hit by cars every once in a while.
Hey, some of this stuff is fun. If you enjoy running marathons or spin classes by all means go for it. Just realize that doing a lot of medium-intensity exercise produces stress hormones (cortisol) and opposite-sex hormones (testosterone if you're female, estrogen if you're male) that your body needs to deal with.
So to recap, exercise that improves your fitness at some expense to your health includes:
- Training for a marathon
- Lots of running, jogging, or biking for relatively long distances at other than a slow-and-easy pace
- Rigorous "Aerobics" type activities