How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Sharon Rekieta, Fitness and Wellness Director - 28th March 2014

After finally deciding to start exercising, you’re eager to embark on a fitness routine.  However, before lacing up those shoes and breaking a sweat, you have questions: How much?  How often?  What works?  What’s best? 

In response, you begin a search for reliable recommendations.  Your physician prescribes a 30-minute walk every day for good health and that seems possible.  A friend claims that vigorously working up a good sweat for at least 360 minutes each week insures longevity; yet, that appears somewhat ambitious for a novice.  Then, a trainer advocates a weekly routine that includes weight workouts, aerobic sessions and flexibility classes as necessary to obtain a sleek physique and that sounds overwhelming.

Headlines from various magazines provide other options: Be Beach Ready in a Month, 30-Minute Total Body Blast, Get Fit in Just 10-Minutes a Day.  And those motivating yet somewhat vague slogans keep running through your head: Just Do It, Move it or Lose It, and Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.  You find yourself wondering why your earnest attempt to obtain guidance yielded a variety of choices, no definitive program and the big question left unanswered: How much exercise do I really need?

Despite the varied and sometimes contradictory advice, all of the above can be correct; however, what course one follows ultimately depends on the desired goal.  Most people initiate or maintain a fitness program for one of three reasons: general health concerns, a longing for longevity, or a desire to lose weight and look better.  Due to the assorted objectives, guidelines to achieve each goal also vary.

For good health, doctor knows best.  Thirty-minutes of moderate activity every day reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, hypertension, some cancers, depression, and other diseases.  Walking represents an obvious and safe choice for almost everyone.  In addition, minutes accumulated while shopping, swimming, biking, dancing, working in the garden or yard and cleaning house also apply.

To live longer, experts recommend strenuous and challenging activities, such as running or intense fitness classes five days a week.  Since progressing beyond the comfort zone is physiologically demanding, beginners and the unfit should prepare gradually and develop consistency before attempting this level of intensity.

Vanity motivates many initially; however, improvement endeavors such as losing weight or acquiring a sleek physique require considerable effort and time.  Therefore, selecting enjoyable activities and varying the routine typically encourages many to work out longer and more often.  The most effective regimens include cardio/aerobic components, weight training, and flexibility classes.

Although the above represent general guidelines suitable for most fitness enthusiasts, prior to beginning any exercise program, discuss your plans with a physician.  Then armed with a clear goal and an appropriate personalized program, you can confidently proceed with purpose and achieve fitness success.