A lot of times when we go to the gym we are focused on what we are going to do right then.  “What exercises am I going to do?  How many sets and reps?  What weight will I be using?”  All of these are valid questions to consider.  However, as a personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques™ specialist in Schaumburg, IL, I often have to talk with my clients about the value of investing intelligently into their exercise account, which means exercising for tomorrow and not just for today.


Think of exercising like an investment account.  With investing, you rarely focus on the gains you will be making any one day.  In fact, the best investors are far more concerned with how an investment will grow over five to ten years as opposed to how much they can get from it in one day.  Additionally, what is the one piece of advice we consistently hear about our investment accounts?  We need to diversify.

What does this have to do with exercise?

First, the value of compounding growth is much like the value of consistently exercising over time.  As you continue to exercise day after day, you will begin to see health benefits that you cannot find with just one day of exercise.  For example, insulin resistance can be prevented through consistent activity, but it takes an emphasis on the consistent part in order to reap the benefits.

Additionally, much like your retirement account will be more and more fruitful the longer you have it, exercise will continue to show greater and greater benefits the longer you do it.  In fact, just 15 minutes of physical activity each day has been documented to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality by 14% and extend life expectancy by three years (1).  Furthermore, for every additional 15 minutes of physical activity that are performed each day, an additional 4% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality has been shown (1).

Second, the value gleaned from exercising is rarely found in what is done in one workout.  Exercising is a process of stimulation and adaptation.  This means you have to have periods of higher amounts of stimulus to create change (i.e. exercising) followed by periods of lower stimulus to allow the adaptation/change to occur (i.e. rest).  Without the latter, it is extremely difficult to reap the benefits of the former.  This is similar to the idea that the value of a retirement account is not based on purely the buying and selling of investments but rather the buying and selling relative to how those investments changed over time.

Third, the need to diversify within your exercise account is just as important as it is within your retirement account.  Not only do you need to diversify in terms of challenge (some days pushing a little bit harder and some days backing off a bit), but also in terms of the types of exercises or activities you are doing.  This is not to say that every time you workout you need to do something completely different the last time.  In fact, that is not something I recommend at all.  However, having some days where you perform resistance training, others where you maybe go for a harder run or bike ride, and some where you go for a brisk walk will help to make sure that you can continue to exercise for life.

Three ways that you can start investing intelligently into your exercise account are:

  1. Schedule your exercise. You will be significantly more likely to exercise on a consistent basis if you have time blocked off specifically to do so.
  2. Shoot for 70%.  You don’t need to give an all-out effort every time you exercise.  Remember, consistency with exercise is one of the most important aspects.  If you are so achy and sore after Day 1 that you need to rest for three days, it is unlikely that you will be able to exercise for the long term.  Instead of giving a max effort, consider stopping when you are about 70% there.  Also, instead of feeling guilty about missing a day of exercise, consider shooting for exercising 70% of the days, or about 5 days a week or 21 days out of the month.  This will allow you the freedom to miss and not feel like you are getting off track.
  3. Incorporate regular resistance training into your exercise program.  While going for a run, biking, or playing games are fantastic activities, adding in resistance training two to three days per week will help to build up the strength of your muscles.  This will support and protect your joints as you continue to do other forms of physical activity that you enjoy.

When you think about exercise, think about it like the process of investing into your portfolio.  While we can put all of our money into high-risk, high-reward investments, it is rare that we end up with a healthy portfolio after just 90 days of investing.  However, it is far more likely that we will have a healthy portfolio by diversifying our investments and taking a long-term approach.  The more you can apply this mindset to how you think about exercise, the healthier you will likely become.

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  1. Wen C, Wai J, Tsai M, Yang Y, Cheng T, Lee M, Chan H, Tsao C, Tsai S, Wu X. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study.  The Lancet.  DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60749-6, 2011.

Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. He is certified in the highest levels of MAT®, including MATRx, MATRx Stim, and MAT® Athlete. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!