Best exercises for busy Singapore mums

You know you should exercise more but you don't have the time because you're a busy professional working in the CBD and have 2 kids to look after at home.


Does this sound like you? Have you tried group fitness classes, body pump. HIIT and other programmes and are not getting the results you desire and deserve? Then read on to see how to get the most bang for your buck in the limited amount of time you have available. We’ll start off by looking at the various popular workouts such as HIIT, running, yoga and Pilates, and will talk about the best option for busy moms to lose weight, burn fat and boost confidence.


Probably not a busy Singapore mum!
Probably not a busy Singapore mum!

High intensity interval training has never been so popular. There are classes in every gym or boutique studio incorporating this form of training, that alternates short periods of intense effort with short recovery periods. Because of the intensity, these workouts are usually quite short and should last between 20 to 30 min. In theory, this training method can actually be very effective to lose fat. Research shows that HIIT workouts improve the capacity of the muscles to oxidize or burn fat. In addition, your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout thanks to what we call the EPOC effect. 


So on paper, this sounds great. The reality, however, is far different. 


The extreme nature of this type of training regimen has a very stressful effect on the body. Now, if you’re a Singaporean woman, with a full-time corporate job, and a family and home to take care of, you probably already have a lot of stress in your life. If, on top of that, you add 2 to 3 HIIT workouts per week, you’re definitely going to ramp up your adrenal response and cortisol levels. The release of cortisol induces sugar cravings, appetite increase, and reduces the ability of the body to burn fat. So you end up absolutely exhausted, and you’re not losing any weight.


In addition, our hormones are extremely sensitive, much more so than men’s. Any kind of additional stress can disrupt our hormonal balance and lead to weight gain, menstrual issues, extreme fatigue or even depression amongst others.


Finally, intense endurance training will have the same stressful effect on the body as HIIT, with the same hormonal reaction blocking fat burning.


Woman wearing running shoes at a park
When your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, you don't want to waste time on long bouts of cardio.

The first idea that comes to mind when you want to lose weight is usually to go running or any other form of endurance training, meaning longer bouts of exercise at low or moderate intensity. This form of training seems more accessible if you have never really trained before or if you’re trying to regain your fitness. However, if you’re a busy mum and your goal is to lose weight, cardio is not neccesarily the best solution. 


Your body is an incredible machine that is constantly adapting to the stress of training to become more efficient. Therefore, as you keep training, your body will become better at it, and will require less energy to perform the same activity. So the more you run, the more your body gets used to running, and the less energy your burn while running.


If you want to keep burning fat, you will need to run longer to avoid the adaptation. But between work, the kids, and a house to maintain, you may not have time, or motivation, for that. 


In addition, endurance training can result in the catabolism (or breakdown) of muscle as the body runs out of fuel and needs to break down protein for energy. But muscles are your friend when you are trying to lose fat and you don’t want to see them burn away. Muscles burn calories all day and all night and they help increase your metabolism. Losing muscle will actually work against you and your goals.

Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and pilates are both quite popular in Singapore. These activities present lots of benefits and are great options if you want to get a stronger and more stable core, or work on your breathing and flexibility. They're also usually low intensity and are a great to release stress.


But as mentioned above, if you want to lose fat, you need to build muscle (not dense body building muscles but attractive and toned muscles). And to build muscle, you will need to use heavier weights than just your bodyweight. Pilates is probably the best option between the two since it incorporates resistance training and creates a great functional base, but it is generally not enough to burn fat.

The Best Solution

Asian woman at the gym lifting weights
The biggest weight loss/fat burning bang for your exercise buck is strength training.

The best solution to build muscle and turn your body into fat burning mode is strength training in the form of weight training. You will build muscle that will keep burning calories even when you’re sleeping. In addition, lifting heavy weight doesn’t raise your cortisol levels like HIIT workouts or endurance training. You are only stressing your body in the few seconds you’re lifting the weight.


You are resting the rest of the time, even in between each rep. In the end, for a workout of 30 minutes, you might have been actually making an effort for maybe half of the time. In addition, weight training workouts don’t have to be long to be effective. Pretty handy when you’re a busy mom!


Because you need to learn proper form, and perform the exercises safely, the best option will be to use a Personal Trainer once a week for 1 hour, and then do two 30 minute sessions on your own either at your office or condo gym or at the closest community center gym whenever convenient. If you're lifting heavy and use big bang exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible you will be sending very powerful signals to your body to adapt and repair - hence 30 minutes is enough. 3 times a week is the sweet spot for getting the most bang for your buck from a strength training programme. Once a week is for maintenance (virtually no improvement to your current situation), twice a week for mild improvement, three times a week for pretty decent improvement, particularly for beginners. You will see diminishing gains from subsequent sessions such as 4 or 5 a week however they will be necessary if you have any serious fitness goals.


To your health, happiness and longevity,


The Levitise Team


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