How much exercise do I need?

You’re trying to improve your health. You know that you need to exercise regularly, but what exactly does that mean? 

If you’ve ever read an article about how to prevent a certain medical condition, such as high blood pressure, you probably know that regular exercise is essential. Moving your body more frequently can help you lower your risk of developing many different medical conditions.

But the word “regular” is pretty vague and open to interpretation. So, we’re going to answer a few common questions about how much exercise is needed for good health.

Q: How much exercise do I need?

A: Experts recommend that most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That breaks down to slightly more than 20 minutes per day. Totally doable, right?

Moderate physical activity includes any movement that gets your heart beating faster. Some examples include brisk walking, riding a bike, dancing or hiking.

You can also bump up the intensity of your workouts and exercise for less time — experts recommend getting 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week as an alternative to the 150 minutes of moderate activity. Vigorous activity would include exercises such as running, playing singles tennis, hiking uphill or jumping rope.

For optimal health — or to lose weight — include both heart-pumping activities and strength training exercises. Use the guidelines above as a minimum and aim to get more exercise each week when possible. 

Q: How many steps a day do I need to stay healthy?

A: You may have heard that you need to get 10,000 steps per day. But it turns out that’s really an arbitrary number.

If you’re getting 10,000 steps per day, that’s great! But if you’re not, take note: Research published in late 2021 found that getting 7,000 steps is a good goal. Participants in a study who got at least 7,000 steps per day were up to 70% less likely to die of any cause in the next decade than those who got fewer steps.

If you’re not getting that many steps, make it a goal to add 500 steps per day for a week. Keep building once you hit that goal, increasing gradually over time.

Q: How do I stay motivated?

A: You’re more likely to stay motivated when you have a workout with a friend or family member. Swap a shared cup of coffee for a jog, enjoy a brisk walk after dinner out, play tennis before a shopping trip or ask your best friend to join you at a gym class. Chatting with a friend during exercise and breaks can help time pass quickly, too.

Q: How often should I exercise a week?

A: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this question. Health experts recommend a total number of minutes of exercise to fit into your week, but how you get those minutes is up to you.

While it’s best to incorporate movement into your daily routines, you may not be able to get in an actual workout on a daily basis or even three or four times a week. You may find that you prefer longer workouts and fewer of them, or you may discover you like your exercise in bite-sized segments multiple times a day.

It may take some experimenting to discover what works best for you. But in the long run, it’s getting in the exercise that counts. Whether you do it with long workouts three times a week or short workouts more often is a personal preference.

Can’t get in a workout at all for a few days? Sprinkle in more movement in your daily activities by taking a walk around the office, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and even standing up while on a phone call. Your body will thank you!

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