How much should I exercise? What should I eat? What’s my ideal weight? How much should I sleep? We didn’t come with user guides and as more and more people are trying to make healthier lifestyle choices, in the Age of the Internet, we demand answers. The answers we’re looking for aren’t always easy to come by in the thicket of information out there.
At Gigabody, we’re focused on health, and fitness is our passion. So we decided to tackle the first question, “How much should I exercise?” by distilling the best information from around the Web. We hope you’ll use this post as guidance for understanding what the right amount of exercise is for you.
People’s fitness level, age, general health, and goals with exercise vary. We realize there is no one answer to this question that’s right for everyone. So we broke it down further —
How much should I exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
The American Heart Association, the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health all agree (sigh of relief) on the minimum amount of exercise for an adult to maintain cardiovascular health and muscle strength:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
- Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits
Moderate aerobic activity is defined by how hard an activity is for an individual compared to a state of rest. On a scale of 1-10, in terms of aerobic difficulty, you should think of moderate as a 5 or 6. An example for most people would be brisk walking. Vigorous aerobic activity can be thought of the same way, only the difficulty level is a 7 or 8. Examples are jogging and running.
There are more details you may be interested in about the minimum exercise requirements and you can read them here.
Can exercise make me live longer?
According to recent studies reported in the New York Times, Yes. An article describing the research says, in the 14-year period of the study, people who met the minimum exercise requirements had a 31% less chance of dying than those who did not exercise. People who tripled the recommended level of exercise, mostly by walking a little more than an hour per day, decreased their risk of premature death by 39%. (The “minimum exercise requirements” in this study refers to those recommended by the CDC, AHA and NIH, as mentioned in the previous section.)
The bottom line is the minimum is not that much and, as long as you’re moving your body, it counts! Stay home and do a workout, go for a walk, do some gardening, have a dance party in your kitchen!
How much should I exercise to lose weight?
Exercising to lose weight, according to Michelle Bridges, a trainer on the Australia’s Biggest Loser, is about establishing lifetime fitness habits.
On the show, contestants spend hours a day doing vigorous workouts, and often achieve inspiring results. In the real world, Michelle finds that six workouts per week, lasting 50-60 minutes each, are ideal for weight loss.
Any exercise regime designed to lose weight needs to be accompanied by an appropriate nutritional plan, so make sure you consult with your doctor about what’s best for you.
Even if weight-loss is the goal of your exercise regimen, remind yourself frequently of all of the other benefits of exercise – we’ll continue to repeat these core messages. Exercise gives your body tone, improves your metabolism, and makes weight maintenance easier (which is just as critical once you lose the weight).
Is it possible to exercise too much?
On the one hand, the answer to this is obviously “yes” – imagine running a marathon every day, for example. Few people’s joints, backs, muscles, bones and hearts can withstand that kind of strain. Most of us are not extreme athletes in danger of exercising too much in a way that seriously overstresses our body. But we can focus so heavily on exercise that it becomes unhealthy, leading to injury, exhaustion and depression.
You may be exercising too much if:
- you’ve lost your drive to workout
- you don’t sleep well anymore
- your resting heart rate is high
- you feel heavy and sluggish
WebMd reports about something called “Exercise Addiction.” It says an extreme need for control in some high achievers can cause the condition, resulting in a sense of self-worth only when exercising.
How much exercise is right for me?
To find what’s right for you, the key to remember is that we exercise in order to be fit and we strive for fitness in order to be healthy. “Addiction” we all know is not healthy. Sleeping poorly, and feeling physically and mentally exhausted are also not healthy, clear signs from our body that we need to take a break.
What we put in our bodies — food – and how we move our bodies – exercise — are the two biggest controllable factors influencing our health and, ultimately, our happiness.
At Gigabody we believe exercise should be fun. Because it is. It makes our bodies strong and our minds clear.
Use this checklist to help you understand the right amount of exercise for you:
- Look at your goals – what do you hope to achieve by exercise?
- Compare yourself to the healthy lifestyle minimum we talked about earlier.
- Kick it up from there. Challenge yourself but don’t overdo it.
- Listen to your body. If you’re doing too much, it’s probably trying to let you know.