How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Exercising regularly is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of disease, manage your weight, lift your mood, and improve mental clarity. Its impact on health and well-being is so profound that nothing else — no supplement, drug, diet, or device — can replace it.

Even something as simple as walking regularly has important benefits. But the answer to the question “How much exercise should I do?” can be confusing.

The standard minimum recommendation of 30 minutes per day, five days per week may seem like too much for someone who doesn’t exercise, but too little for someone with weight loss or fitness goals. Physical activity is good for everyone, but the form can vary depending on age, fitness level, health, and personal goals. Are you training for a marathon, or just trying to maintain (or lose) weight and boost your energy?

Don’t let questions about the details stop you from doing what you can do right now. Even small changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or adding a brisk walk to your lunch break, help. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise plays a major role in disease prevention and management, significantly reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke, metabolic syndrome, cancer, arthritis, and more. It is also very beneficial for mental and emotional health; reduce anxiety, stress, and depression; and increase the sense of well-being. It can even help you live longer, and live with more energy and vitality. It is no small reward.

Despite this knowledge, most of us do not move enough, and fitness levels have declined dramatically over the last decade, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is now the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only about a quarter of US adults regularly meet the level of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control in 2020.

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Motion Minutes

So how far should we move? Updated “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” offers recommendations. Preschool-aged children (under 5 years old) should be given plenty of opportunities to be physically active throughout the day (which happens naturally when screens are turned off), while children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate activity. for vigorous physical activity every day.

Adults should do between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity, every day, as well as some muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week. Parents should follow these guidelines and also include some balance exercises in their fitness routine. Moderate activity can be defined as anything that increases your heart rate and makes breathing harder, but not so strenuous that you can’t hold a conversation.

Fitness guidelines provide useful benchmarks to give us some idea of ​​what a healthy fitness level is for the majority of people. But individual situations are different. Those with chronic illnesses that make vigorous exercise impossible should modify their fitness routines according to their abilities.

It is important to note that, according to the Mayo Clinic, even in chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, exercise is still a very important component of health and may help to overcome these conditions.

People with underlying conditions should consult their healthcare provider before starting an exercise routine to make sure it is safe and effective for them.

Certified exercise physiologist Heather Hart says, “Standard exercise recommendations are based on current evidence and research, and we recommend a minimum amount of physical activity aimed at supporting optimal health. But like anything in life, we have to meet where we are, rather than where we are.” expect it to be perfect from the start.

“For sedentary, non-sports, I highly suggest taking the mindset of ‘some is better than nothing.’ If you’re just starting out, even a five-minute walk around the neighborhood is better than nothing. Every day, aim for a little more, even if it’s five minutes longer, or walk one house farther than you used to. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the recommendation of 30 minutes a day , 5 days a week, create a long-term, big-picture goal, and do it.

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Small Steps Add Up

Robert Herbst, a 19-time world champion powerlifter, said, “Many inactive people are killed because of the sport it portrays. The sport is sold with an attitude of no pain, no use with instructors with bare midriffs and spandex pushing. The deconditioned cannot handle it. because that type of exercise is not fun and not good.

“However, people should find physical activity with the attitude that any movement is good, whether it’s walking the dog, gardening, or taking out the garbage. Also, the amount of activity is additive. Five minutes here add up and you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to meets CDC guidelines.

“He just needs to move more in his daily life. As he gets fitter and the activities become easier, he can add more until he can tackle the more challenging ones.

The word “exercise” often conjures up thoughts of sweaty workouts in crowded gyms, but it’s time to rethink that idea and realize that, as the American Heart Association puts it, any activity that “moves the body and burns calories” is beneficial. and it counts towards your fitness goals. Brisk walking, dancing, gardening, cycling, and many other activities are considered moderate-intensity exercise.

Motivational Factors

Although consistency is important, we all sometimes feel a lack of motivation to get up and move, despite our best efforts to begin. At such times, it is important to remind ourselves that our bodies and minds need to be taken care of.

Planning in advance when you will exercise and finding a partner to exercise can help us follow through with our commitment to exercise. Listening to podcasts or watching shows can make the time spent exercising more enjoyable. Many people use fitness trackers to monitor their activities and feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach their goals.

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And sometimes, it’s important to listen to your body and rest when you need it. Hart shares his personal approach: “I always make a deal with myself: If I start training and still lack motivation, I can stop after 10 minutes. Ninety-five percent of the time, after 10 minutes the heart rate increases and blood flows to the muscles, motivation appears and I follow through with the rest of the workout.

The other 5 percent of the time, if I still don’t feel like exercising after 10 minutes, I give myself permission to rest for the day (or, I’ll try something less intense, like walking fast. treadmill while watching TV). Exercise and an active lifestyle require balance. Some days, our bodies and minds need a break, and it’s okay to rest. In my experience, it gives me the space and grace to recognize that not every day is going to be perfect, helps me stay motivated, and prevents burnout from exercising in the big picture.

Physical activity is important to our health and well-being, and most of us could benefit from more. Finding fun ways to sit and move more—whether “more” means walking around the block, trying the weight room, or a new YouTube dance workout—is one of the best investments we can all make in our own health.

Zrinka Peters

Zrinka Peters is a freelance writer focused on health, wellness, and education topics. She holds a BA in English Literature from Simon Fraser University in Canada and has been published in various print and online publications including Health Digest,, Catholic Teachers Today, and


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