Question Time: A Typical Week

We recently asked you guys to send us health and wellness related questions, and of course we received hundreds of thoughtful queries. In today’s post, I thought I’d tackle a fitness question that I really liked:

“What does a typical week of workouts look like that includes all the components deemed necessary: stretching & flexibility, cardio (HIIT & endurance), balance, strength (upper, lower and core)? Goal to be fit and active in middle age. Limited time to workout like 1-1.5 hrs per day.”

Let me start by saying if you have an hour or an hour and a half to exercise every day, you’re not limited, you’re lucky! Plenty of time to get in everything you need! If you have considerably less time than that, don’t fret, you can still get in what you need during the week, you just have to be intentional and efficient, and perhaps raise the intensity a bit. If you’re really short on time, check back to our recent Express Workout video.

Next let’s check out some of the components mentioned in the question, talk about general guidelines, and look at how they could all fit together in a week of fitness, which is known to coaches as a microcycle.


  • Interval Training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Great for: burning a lot of calories/weight loss, building anaerobic power, strengthening the heart, building tolerance to fatigue. How much: 1-2 sessions per week, or around 75 minutes total per week.
  • Endurance, LSD (Long Slow Distance). This is your longer, steadier, less intense exercise: walking, jogging, running, cycling, XC skiing, hiking, swimming, etc. Great for: strengthening the heart and circulatory system and burning calories, particularly fat. How much: 3-6 sessions per week, or 150-300 minutes (which can include the higher intensity minutes mentioned above). A lot of this category’s duration will depend on your overall goals and your fitness level—beginners may spend the majority of their weekly exercise minutes in this category.

Strength Training

Great for: building strength, developing lean muscle mass, maintaining bone density, burning calories, and developing movement patterns that are useful in everyday life. For this category, I prefer a full body workout—there’s no real need to split up your strength training into body parts/areas, unless you are a body builder or just want to lift every day. Each session may include lower body exercises, upper body (pushing and pulling), combinations (ex. squat to overhead press), and core. Check out our Exercise Library for ideas. How much: 1-3 sessions per week.

Flexibility and Balance

An oft neglected part of our overall fitness, being properly flexible and having good balance generally leads to better movement in all aspects of life, and less pain. Strength, balance, and flexibility help prevent falls and debilitating injury as we age. Flexibility and balance exercises can be done daily, and can be easily built into our other workouts as dynamic warmups, cool downs, and even active rest between sets. Flexibility and balance may also be practiced as standalone sessions, such as in a yoga class.

Weekly Schedule

I’m not going to assign days. Everyone has a different schedule, and different exercise time preferences. But in my best attempt to answer the question, here is one EXAMPLE of what the prior recommendations could look like. Please keep in mind that this example is malleable and customizable. In other words, it’s a template, and not set in stone. Bend it to your will.

  • Day 1 (55-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup, including dynamic stretching and flexibility exercises: 15 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio: 10 minutes
    • Intervals or HIIT: 20-25 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio Cooldown: 10 minutes
    • (Many group fitness exercise classes will follow similar formats)
  • Day 2 (60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 10 minutes
    • Strength Training or Group Fitness Strength Training Class: 40-45 minutes
    • Easy Cardio Cooldown: 5-10 minutes
  • Day 3 (30-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 5-10 minutes
    • Low intensity Cardio: 25-60 minutes
  • Day 4 (30-60 minutes)
    • Yoga Class, or session focusing on balance, flexibility, & core strength
  • Day 5 (30-60 minutes)
    • Do another day of HIIT, strength training, or long endurance—whatever fits your goals best.
  • Day 6 (30+. i.e. as long as you want)
    • Do something fun that you like.
    • Run a race, go for a hike, get outside and play with your kids, ride your bike to a park and have a picnic.
    • Whatever it is you like to do—go do it. This is what you’re training for.
  • Day 7
    • Rest. Relax. Clean the house. It’s cool to take a day off. Rest is where the magic happens.
    • For those of you who are going to do something everyday anyway, repeat the suggestions of Day 5 or Day 6.

It’s good to have a plan! I feel more fit and well-balanced already!

As a concluding remark, I’d just like to say that I appreciate that the goal of the workout plan is stated in the question, and it is a worthy goal: “to be fit and active in middle age”. We all have different goals and aspirations, but most of us share this common goal—we’re all aging and we all want to continue to be fit and active as we age–to live life well. When it comes to overall health and well-being, I truly believe that the answer was already present in this question. The answer being a blend of cardiovascular exercise of various intensities, along with strength training and the incorporation of flexibility and balance, done consistently over time, will yield fantastic results!

Have fun with it, and keep moving!


P.S. We’ll continue to answer questions right here on Montana Moves & Meals, in every Wellchat Podcast, and in a webinar or two!

References: AHA Exercise Guideline Infographic

Desk Reset Video

Many of us work at a desk, or sit at meetings during work, but research published within the past 10 years clearly points to the association between prolonged sitting and increased health risks including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention, it just makes us feel bad. When we sit for a long time, our joints stiffen and our metabolism tanks. The good news is that by breaking up long periods of sitting with activity, we can reduce these unhealthy effects. Try the 1-minute Desk Reset after an hour of sitting, and if you have more than a minute, get out and take a short walk or climb some stairs for even better results! Walking expends 150% more energy than sitting, and climbing stairs over 200% more! The more you move during the day, the better for your physical and mental health!

Obviously, this is just an example of one short simple sequence you can do right at your desk. Feel free to be creative, and make up your own desk reset! The main thing is to move, but here are some guidelines to help you create your custom Desk Reset:

  • Incorporate a few different movements, both upper body and lower body.
  • Choose movements that open/stretch the hips, shoulders, and chest.
  • Incorporate simple body weight exercises.
  • Incorporate stretching or your favorite yoga poses.
  • Keep it simple!

If you come up with an amazing desk reset that you’d like to share, send it our way at

Halting Hypertension Webinar Series

If you ever get nervous about a visit to the doctor’s office or Wellcheck, consider this: blood pressure was first measured in the 1700s by a scientist who inserted a glass tube into the artery of a horse and observed the pressure as blood was pushed up the tube. A century later, a physician developed a way to measure blood pressure without having to pierce the skin (thankfully!). Medicine has come a long way! But it still wasn’t until the mid 19th century that checking blood pressure became a regular part of doctor’s visits. Even then, many doctors did not consider high blood pressure concerning; it was seen as just a normal part of aging. In fact, in 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt was given a clean bill of health, even with a blood pressure of 220/120 (normal blood pressure is less than 120/80)! FDR died only months later from a stroke.

The first effective drugs—without terrible side effects anyway—to lower high blood pressure were developed in the 1950s, but it took a few large, randomized, placebo-controlled studies in the 1960s to finally convince the medical community that high blood pressure should actually be treated. The findings of the studies were resoundingly clear. The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. When high blood pressure was treated, risk was reduced.

Now, in 2019, we know that high blood pressure, known as hypertension, not only should be treated, but that lifestyle modifications can play a huge role in its prevention and management. The foods we eat, how active we are, whether we smoke or not, how we deal with stress, how much alcohol we drink, all play a role in our blood pressure and how likely we are to develop hypertension.

Learn more fascinating facts about hypertension and its prevention by joining our webinar series starting tomorrow (5/14)! We will be hosting four 30-minute webinars on Tuesdays from 12:15 – 12:45pm. If you can’t make it at that time, you can still feel free to register, and you’ll receive the recording as soon as it’s available!

To register, click on the links below:

Tuesday, May 14th: Blood Pressure Basics

Discover the meaning of the blood pressure numbers, how the human body controls blood pressure, symptoms of and risk factors for hypertension, and instructions for getting an accurate blood pressure reading.

Tuesday, May 21st: Nutrition Strategies to Halt Hypertension

Find out which nutrients play an important role in blood pressure regulation, which foods to eat more of, and which foods to only enjoy occasionally, and why the DASH diet remains the gold standard for lowering high blood pressure.

Tuesday, May 28th: Physical Activity Recommendations to Halt Hypertension

We all know that exercise is good for us, but tune in to learn more about the reasons exercise is beneficial for preventing and lowering high blood pressure, and the activities and amount that is recommended for people with hypertension.

Tuesday, June 4th: Managing Stress to Halt Hypertension

Although stress alone may not cause hypertension, unhealthy coping strategies certainly can. We’ll discuss healthy ways to manage stress,  what factors are associated with stress hardiness, what resources are available through MUS Wellness, and we’ll practice a few stress management techniques.

Wellchat Episode 23: GOAT?

Episode 23: Neal & Cristin give some spring/summer updates for the MUS Wellness program, answer a couple of your questions, and have a hypothetical playground basketball game with a couple of great ones.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Helena College Walks it Off!

Our MUS Campus Walk-off challenge concluded last Sunday, and we wanted to give a shout out to our champion—Helena College! Way to go! MUS Wellness program participants at Helena College will be receiving 50 bonus Incentive points as a prize. Woot Woot! Here were our Top 3 schools:

  • Helena College: 399,085 steps per participant during challenge
  • Montana Tech: 355,562 steps
  • Dawson Community College: 336,782 steps

With an average step count of 399,085 over the 41 day challenge, Helena College participants averaged almost 10,000 steps a day! That’s awesome! Also kudos to Dawson Community College, our smallest college in the system, who slayed some giants for a podium finish!

Finally, for those of you who might be interested, the Griz beat the Cats this round, with UM in the 4th spot with 327,933 steps per participant, and MSU Bozeman with 299,023. MSU Billings was the top Montana State location, inches behind the Griz with 327,533 steps per participant.

Since we competed for MSU Bozeman in this challenge, Cristin and I are going to make the excuse that it was still full-on winter here in April, and therefore Missoula had an advantage. 😉 But perhaps our population in Butte, who came in second, would scoff at that notion. But folks in Butte are pretty tough—they are impervious to weather.

All joking aside, congrats MUS, and thanks for participating. You’re all winners! Be looking for our next step challenge to launch this summer! And of course, continue to get outside and have fun in beautiful Montana!

Bike Ready

May is National Bike Month, and even though winter was still in full force on the last day of April, May looks promising for some more spring-like weather, so if you haven’t already, this weekend could be a great time to knock the off-season dust of your family’s bikes and make sure they’re ready to roll!

Basic bicycle maintenance you can do at home

  • Get air in the tires and make sure they are holding air pressure.
  • Check tires for any wear or damage that would warrant replacing.
  • Clean the chain, gears, and derailleurs, and give them some fresh lube.
  • Check the seat and seat post to make sure they are tight and in the right position. Clean any dirt/dust from seat and seat post.
  • Test the brakes to make sure they are working properly, and that the brake pads aren’t rubbing on the rims of the wheels.
  • Just give your bike a general cleaning so it looks shiny and ready to roll!

If your bike is in need of a more major overhaul, you can always head to your local bike shop for a spring tuneup!

Bike month resources/events

  • National Bike to Work Week is May 13-17. National Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17th. Check out your local community calendar for special events!
  • Bozeman is celebrating Bike to Work Week on June 3-7, Bozemanites, stay tuned for a list of coffee and brewery stops for that week. MUS Wellness will host a tent on the MSU Centennial Mall on Friday, June 7th for our MSU commuters!
  • Missoula has events all month long! Check them out here with this awesome Bike Month Calendar.
  • FVCC in Kalispell is starting weekly rides on Wednesdays from May 7 to August 21. The group will meet between 5:15 and 5:30. For more info contact

Have fun and be safe!

#Energized at work

We recently asked participants in the MUS Wellness Incentive Program to share on the Limeade Feed what energizes them at work, using the hashtag #energized. We wanted to know what gives our MUS employees a sense of purpose and commitment at work. Thanks to all who posted their thoughtful responses!

We identified 5 big themes in the responses, plus a few honorable mentions, and wanted to share with you all some great examples of what makes people excited to work here at MUS. Motivation and energy for work often come in waves. Days that you finish a project or help solve a problem, it’s easy to feel happy about work. But other days, perhaps you don’t see any progress, maybe you have poor interactions with colleagues or students. If that’s you right now, we share these quotes with the hope that some will resonate and remind you of why you do what you do!

  1. Working with students. For those of you who work directly with students, it’s clear that seeing students succeed is highly motivating.

“I am #energized when I see the students accomplish things they didn’t think possible.”

“#Energized by building relationships with students and seeing them make progress in their goals.”

2.  Great colleagues. As one person put it, “having excellent colleagues makes all the difference in how I feel about coming to work.”

“I enjoy the people that I work with. We all have the same goal…helping the students. And are willing to lend a hand to other departments if needed. We keep a sense of humor during those crazy times and it gets us through. We care for each other not only as co-workers but as people.”

“My coworkers and management are what keep me #energized. Everyone is upbeat and positive. We all work together to solve problems and pitch in when someone needs help.”

3. Team work. Related to (#2 Great colleagues), working together for a common purpose is always nice.

“#Energized when the lab all works together to complete a project or solve a problem!”

“Coordinating and collaborating with multiple teams, to meet common goals.”

4. Learning new things  – Working in higher education presents constant learning opportunities, which many of you find to be the best part about your job.

“I’m lucky because I get to see information about the amazing science our researchers are doing. Even though my job is all paperwork and compliance related, it still thrills me to see the cool, fascinating, interesting and beneficial work that our researchers do.”

“I get energized by new ideas and stimulating intellectual conversations with colleagues.”

5. Accomplishing tasks. Nothing feels better at work than being productive and seeing check marks in those To-Do list boxes!

“I am #energized by checking things off my to do list, especially when it’s a large project that I have been working on for a long time.”

“There are new challenges every day, but I feel really #energized when I am able to make progress on a project that I can actually see and feel!”

Honorable mentions:

We asked this question in Februrary/March, the time of year that winter can drag on in Montana. Not surprisingly, many of you mentioned feeling energized by the end of winter and arrival of spring. Although much of the state woke up to a blanket of snow on Monday, the sun is finally out today, at least in Bozeman. Hopefully this translates into feeling extra energized!

Some of you also said that you get a boost of energy from decluttering. If you’re feeling stuck, take your next break at work to clear some space from your desk or clean up a corner of your office.

Finally, several responses included something about how receiving positive feedback is motivating. We all like to be recognized for the work that we do. Help your coworkers feel energized at work and create a healthier, happier work environment by providing kind, thoughtful feedback and a pat on the back for your colleagues who deserve it!

Thanks for keeping us #energized too! —Cristin

Giving Yourself a Raise

April is Financial Literacy Month! Financial literacy is defined as the understanding of financial topics related to managing personal finance, money, and investing. Amy Berry, Associate Director of Retirement Benefits & Pension Plans for MUS, is our guest writer today, and shares the following article to help improve financial literacy when faced with the fortunate situation of having a little extra cash on hand.

Got some Extra Cash?

Occasionally we may find ourselves with a little extra cash in our bank accounts.  Maybe you just paid off a credit card or your car payment?  Or you have a side hustle?  Maybe you get a raise?  Or your kiddo starts school and you no longer have that daunting childcare bill?  There are a lot of life events that allow you to give yourself a “raise,” but finding a way to make that raise work harder for you in the long term can be a little more challenging. Instant gratification can be tempting, and sometimes we find we’re just replacing one bill with another. So when you find yourself with a bit more income, here are a few things to consider:

1.     Wait a Few Weeks

Make sure you know what portion is going to you before you make any big decisions.  Depending on where your new-found income is coming from, your taxes and withholdings may change.  Don’t be caught off guard by allocating your new money before understanding your current obligations. 

2.     Reassess your Budget

Before allocating money to budget categories, this is a good time to assess your budget and see if there are ways to save more.  Once your budget is in place, then think about where your “raise” is going to do the most good.  Consider starting an emergency fund (3—6 months’ worth of expenses), paying off debts, or increasing contributions to your retirement plan.

3.     Avoid Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep erodes building wealth.  With an increase to your pocketbook comes the temptation to immediately increase your standard of living, but first carefully consider: “Is this new expense really necessary?”  If not, then resist the urge to spend your money now and save it to grow its value and provide financial resources for your future.  The key to savings and retirement readiness is continuing to live below your means; i.e. pay yourself and your future first.

4.     Attack your Debt

Getting a “raise” is a good time to accelerate your efforts to reduce debt.  Consider increasing your monthly payment to pay your balance off quicker and avoid increased debt due to interest.  Attacking your high interest debt is the easiest way to begin building positive net worth. 

5.     Build your Emergency Fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund.  Life is full of unexpected events so be prepared to deal with the loss of a job, a medical emergency, or a car repair by saving 3—6 months’ worth of expenses.  Once you have a little more income, use either split direct deposit (if you employer offers it) to fund different accounts or set an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings until you reach your goal.  Automation is your friend when saving!

6.     Reexamine your Retirement

Once your daily expenses have been addressed, it’s time to examine your retirement plan.  Consider that you have been living on your pre-raise salary and your “raise” could go to helping you be retirement ready.  Increased contributions to your retirement plan mean more retirement income in your portfolio.   Consider the options available to you through your employer or a personal IRA.

7. Reward Yourself

Celebrate or allow yourself to scratch that “I’ve got money to spend” itch by rewarding yourself with a one-time purchase.  Buy tickets to a concert or sporting event, new clothing, or meal out.  A one-time purchase allows for a reward without increasing your future expenses.

Remember, one of the best things you can do is pay yourself first:  before you pay your bills, your groceries, pay other expenses, set aside a portion of your income to save.  The first bill every month should be to pay yourself and your future self.  Prioritizing your savings helps you to develop the mindset that you and your future are important and develops good financial habits.  The most important step is to just start.  Starting small is a good start.  Continue to increase over time.  And just like a diet, if you have a set-back forgive yourself, move on, and start again to create your best financial future.

Developed from Money Crashers, Business Insider, Discover, Personal Finance for Beginners, and Get Rich Slowly.

Wellchat Episode 22: Fast Forward 2019

Episode 22: Neal and Cristin catch up on all things MUS Wellness on their first Wellchat of 2019, plus Neal gives some tips about keeping indoor exercise fresh as we transition through winter into spring.

Wellchat Episode 22

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Spring[?] Workshops on the way.

Spring is around the corner? March is days away but winter is digging in her heels. Nevertheless, your fearless Wellness Exercise Specialist is making travel plans, and will be visiting several MUS campuses during March and April. As we plan and populate workshops, check out the calendar on the Events and Media tab to see what’s being added, and be on the lookout for announcements from your campus.

That being said, I wanted to go ahead and put out some early opportunities to register, especially for all my Missoula friends. I’ll be spending some time next week with you, and we’re offering four workshops, which can be found in the PDF link below:

For Bozeman folks, we have an Intro to Mindfulness Workshop the week of Wellcheck, hosted by one of our friends at MSU Counseling and Psychological Services. For more information, and to register, click here.

Again, more info will be coming soon regarding live workshops this spring across the state! For now, be safe and stay warm!