It’s a good idea to be aware of your initial exercise goals before determining how much exercise you require.
How much activity is too much? Your health and goals will determine this.
“How much exercise is enough for what?” asks David Bassett Jr., PhD, a professor and the department head of exercise physiology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He explains that you should have a clear understanding of your exercise objectives before deciding how much you need to exercise: Do you work out for health and fitness, to manage your weight, or to reduce stress?
According to Susan Joy, MD, codirector of the Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Center in Sacramento and team physician for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, a daily walking regimen may be sufficient for general health benefits. If your objective is more specific, such as to reduce blood pressure, increase cardiovascular fitness, or lose weight, you’ll need to either exercise more frequently or at a higher intensity.
Exercise is medicine, according to Jeffrey E. Oken, MD, acting chief of staff at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois: “The medical literature continues to support this idea. Regular exercise can help combat obesity, improve lung function, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, control blood pressure, treat depression, and lower the risk of premature death. In this article, experts define how much exercise is sufficient based on your individual health and fitness objectives.
Current Physical Fitness Guidelines for Adults and Kids
For overall health, adults should strive for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic movement each week, according to 2019 recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (1) Aerobic exercise enhances cardiorespiratory health when done frequently. Aerobic exercise includes activities like cycling, swimming, brisk walking, and running.
The long-standing recommendation that exercise must last at least 10 minutes in order to count toward your weekly requirement was removed from the most recent version of the HHS physical activity guidelines. The current recommendations state that you can count any amount of physical activity toward your weekly target. According to Neal Pire, CSCS, an exercise physiologist based in Englewood, New Jersey, “this may be due to the worry that if people can’t do 10 minutes, they may get discouraged and do nothing. Nearly 80% of adults, according to HHS, don’t get the recommended amounts of aerobic and muscle-building exercise.
Whether it takes one minute, five minutes, or thirty minutes, Pire asserts that any exercise is preferable to none. To promote growth and development, the HHS encourages preschool-aged children to play more. Unstructured and active play is included in this, such as biking, jumping, and swimming.
Between the ages of 6 and 17, children and teenagers should engage in an hour of vigorous or moderate physical exercise each day. The majority of those 60 minutes should be dedicated to aerobic exercise, which involves using your body’s large muscles repeatedly while also increasing your heart rate and breathing rate. The recommendations state that children and teenagers should engage in muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises three times per week, such as leaping jacks or bodyweight exercises.
The HHS physical exercise recommendations for all people include a warning about the health dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Adults should walk around more throughout the day and rest less, according to the recommendations. A study from 2020 noted the extensive detrimental effects of inactivity on mortality, heart disease, cancer risk, diabetes risk, depression, joint problems, and cognitive decline. Sedentary lifestyle risks are becoming more well-studied.
How Much Exercise Do You Need to Lose Weight or Maintain Weight Loss?
Research consistently demonstrates that including exercise in your routine will help you lose weight. For instance, a 2017 review found a correlation between regular exercise and long-term increases in weight loss and weight maintenance efforts. However, the general HHS activity recommendations might not be sufficient if you’re trying to control your weight through exercise; you’ll probably need to set aside more time for exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) claims that engaging in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 to 250 minutes per week only produces modest weight loss, and that for significant weight loss you may need to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for more than 250 minutes per week (in addition to dietary intervention). So how much physical activity do you need each day? That comes out to roughly an hour, five days a week.
To achieve their goals, the government advises people who want to lose a significant amount of weight—more than 5 percent of their body weight—to engage in more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. You can achieve similar weight-control results in roughly half the time if you up your intensity. Women who engaged in high-intensity interval training, for instance, lost the same amount of weight and body fat as those who engaged in moderate-intensity cardio, but they did so while working out for a lot less time. It’s crucial to keep in mind that you must continue working out after you reach your weight loss objectives in order to prevent gaining the weight back. One of the most important ways exercise aids in weight management is by preventing weight gain, according to a 2014 study looking into the subject (perhaps even more than it helps you lose weight).
The HHS notes that it varies: Some people require more physical activity than others to sustain a healthy body weight, to reduce weight, or to keep weight off once it has been lost. The ACSM advises engaging in more than 250 minutes of exercise each week to avoid weight regain. The ACSM advises conducting strength-training activities to raise the body’s levels of fat-free mass, which enhances metabolic rate, in order to both drop weight and avoid weight regain. Because of this, when Harvard researchers studied 10,500 men for 12 years, those who engaged in 20 minutes of weight training each day acquired less abdominal obesity than those who engaged in the same amount of cardiovascular activity.