How Many Minutes of Exercise Do You Need Each Week?
Probably you have heard it before somewhere on the news or online, that sedentary levels are rising in America and all over the world and that doctors and health institutions recommend you be more physically active and engage in some form of training or moving every day to maintain good health and improve your life.
Now, if you’re thinking of following that advice and are willing to try and be more active, you should pat yourself on the back because that is a great idea, but you’re probably wondering how much exercise you really need, how many minutes of exercise you should be engaging in every week and how you can maintain that and fit it in your routine, so today we’ll cover the best guidelines of physical activity, why it is important to maintain them and a few tips on how to make them a part of your routine easily.
The official recommendation and where does it come from
According to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every week and in addition to that at least 2 days of strengthening activity or strength training in order to maintain and improve overall health and ensure healthy aging and functional independence as we age.
For younger children and teens the recommendation from the World Health Organization can go as high as 60 minutes of physical activity every day, which might sound like a lot but should not be too difficult for healthy populations to achieve.
These recommendations, which are constantly updated, are based on the latest research on the benefits and needs of physical activity to lowers the risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression, and to counteract the increasingly sedentary lifestyle and work life that we are all exposed to today.
It might be quite alarming to knowc that about 1 in 2 adults live with a chronic disease which in most cases can be prevented or managed with lifestyle changes, or that only half of adults get the physical activity they need to help reduce and prevent chronic diseases, or that the annual health care costs associated with insufficient physical activity can rise to 117 billion. These numbers are not meant to scare you but to call upon attention to the importance of regular physical activity and the benefits it can have for your health and wellbeing.
Why it is important to be physically active
As mentioned above our lifestyle has changed a lot in the last decades and the need to be physically active for survival or providing for our families has decreased dramatically, thus intentional regular physical activity has become a mandatory necessity if we want to prevent many negative health conditions and maintain good health as we age.
Here’s a list of a few amazing health benefits we can expect from regularly engaging in movement, physical activity and strength training for all ages:
For children it can help reduce depression, improve aerobic and muscular fitness, Improve bone health, promote a favorable body composition, and improve the development of mental and physical qualities like balance, coordination, focus and attention and even improve measures of academic performance.
For adults: it can reduce the incidence and likelihood of developing negative health conditions like blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, overweight and obesity, as well as improve aerobic fitness, mental health and cognitive function. It has also been proven that regular physical activity can reduce and manage symptoms like pain in people who might already have conditions like arthritis.
For the elderly and healthy aging: physical activity is paramount for maintaining strength as we age, reducing muscle and bone mass loss and maintaining functional independence, reducing the risk of falling and needing external aids for walking or other daily activities. It can also help improve sleep, balance, joint mobility and delays the onset of cognitive decline.
How to get more physical activity every week
Now that you know and understand the importance of engaging in regular physical activity you might be a bit overwhelmed by the numbers presented and think that 150 minutes or more of physical activity seems like a lot. However keep in mind these tips and you might find it is actually quite easy to achieve and maintain:
Remember you don’t need to do it all in one bout, you can divide any time you want to fit your schedule and make it sustainable. For example 20-30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week is more than enough to reach that goal, and only 3 one-hour sessions a week will get you well past that mark.
You should favor strength training exercises like weight training, calisthenics or other forms of training against resistance because these will give you the most benefits in strength gains, muscle gain or preservation and maintaining bone as we age.
Take it easy and start gradually, especially if you are overweight or haven’t engaged in physical activity in a while. You can start with 10-20 minutes daily walks and build up from there. There should be no pain and you should feel invigorated and more energetic instead of tired or beat up.
You don’t need to do activities you don’t enjoy, in fact research shows that trying different training or exercise modalities and finding one that is more enjoyable to you is the best way to make it stick and be consistent with it. So try different things like weight training, soccer, basketball, martial arts, running or others and stay with the one that you prefer.
Not all physical activity is in the form of sweating and exercise. You can add tons of moving to your day with small changes like using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car farther from your office or the store, or better yet walking to places instead of driving or taking the bus, taking pomodoro brakes to go for a short walk or move around. These might not seem like a lot but can easily add up to a lot of moving and being active every day and reaping the benefits.