How much should I exercise?

Lionel M. Bissoon, MD
Sports Medicine
Aim to exercise at least 20 to 25 minutes every other day. Whenever possible, walk instead of driving, take the stairs instead of using elevators, and if you are a couch potato, work out while watching TV. Commercial breaks air for about two to three minutes. Consider taking this time to get some exercise instead of snacking. The goal is to simply move as often as possible and throughout the day.
Although any amount of physical activity is better than none, here are some targets to keep in mind:
  • Aerobic exercise: At least 30 minutes most days of the week to build endurance, strengthen your heart and muscles, burn calories, and increase your lung capacity. For greater health benefits -- and to lose weight and keep it off -- more is better.
  • Strength training (resistance exercise): At least twice a week to build muscle and boost your metabolism.
  • Flexibility/stretching: At least 2 or 3 times a week for 10 to 15 minutes to help maintain range of motion, promote circulation, improve strength and balance, and condition your muscles for other exercise.
  • General activity: Not all your activity has to be from formal exercise sessions. Build more activity into your day, every day. It all adds up!
Knowing how often and how long to exercise is a frequent concern for a lot of people. Thankfully, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a preeminent source of exercise research, has analyzed the latest data and compiled an updated list of workout protocols. According to Carol Ewing Garber, PhD, FAHA, FACSM, chair of the writing committee: "The scientific evidence we reviewed is indisputable." Here are a few highlights of their conclusions:

Cardio Training
Adults should get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. To meet these requirements, do 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week.

Weight Training
Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week, using a variety of exercises and equipment. For each exercise, 8-12 reps improve strength and power, 10-15 reps improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 reps improve muscular endurance.

Functional Fitness
Also known as "neuromotor" exercise, functional fitness training should be done two or three days per week for 20-30 minutes per day. Exercises should involve motor skills (e.g., balance, agility, coordination, and gait). This is especially important for older adults and can include tai chi and yoga.

For optimal health, you need to do enough physical activity to burn between 3,500 and 6,500 calories a week (or roughly 500 to 950 a day). Everyday tasks will put a dent in this, but science shows that you'll also need about 60 minutes a week of stamina training. What’s that? It’s cardiovascular exercise that gets your body moving and your heart rate climbing, and makes you breathe harder. The way to improve heart function is to sweat more. Why? Cardiovascular activity helps lower your blood pressure.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Ideally, 60 minutes/day at least. However, it does not have to be done all at once. You can do this in short spurts to add up to a total of 1 hour/day.  In fact, you can maximize the benefit of exercise on your blood sugars by exercising for 20 minutes after each meal to add up to a total of 60 minutes/day.  It is also important to make simple changes in your lifestyle that incorporate more physical activity--for example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to nearby places rather than driving, etc.

John Preston, PsyD
The surgeon general's report Physical Activity and Health recommends that all adults "accumulate" (which means not necessarily all at once) thirty minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, if not all, days of the week to maintain a healthy level of fitness. "Moderate intensity" means warm and slightly out of breath; you could still carry on a conversation. Losing weight may require longer, more intense exercise.
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Internal Medicine
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a detailed exercise prescription for the nation. Every adult was urged to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity -- the equivalent of walking at a rate of 3 to 5 miles per hour -- or at least 75 minutes of higher-intensity activity -- a rate of 5 mph or more -- a week. The sessions should be at least 10 minutes long and may combine both moderate and vigorous activities. In addition, adults were advised to engage in at least two sessions of strengthening exercises a week.

Once you're routinely logging the recommended levels of aerobic activity, start to add a few minutes a day. (Ramping up slowly reduces the likelihood of injury.) The HHS committee found that you can get even greater health benefits and more effective weight control when you reach twice the recommended weekly amount -- that is, 300 minutes of moderate activity, 150 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two. And more than that may be even better still.

The HHS exercise guidelines emphasize that people with chronic medical conditions and disabilities should get just as much exercise as other adults, if they can, and advise them to speak with their health care providers about appropriate kinds and levels of exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine Web site also has detailed advice for people with certain chronic health conditions.
Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services physical guidelines urge all adults—including people with various disabilities—to accumulate a weekly total of 150 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes or more of vigorous activity, or an equivalent mix of the two. Keep in mind:
  • Ten minutes of vigorous activity equals approximately 20 minutes of moderate activity.
  • Sessions of activity should last at least 10 minutes.
  • Twice-weekly strength training sessions for all major muscle groups are recommended, too.
  • Balance exercises are suggested, as well, for older adults at risk of falling.
If you're ready for a challenge, doubling your weekly exercise time—300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 150 minutes of vigorous activity—boosts health benefits. And if you're shaking your head at the thought of managing far less activity, keep in mind that any amount of exercise beats none. Try to do as much as possible. Even short stints of activity (five minutes of walking several times a day to help you build endurance) are a good first step toward meeting a bigger goal.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The type of activity you do is not nearly as important as how often you do it, and how long you do it. Because exercise lowers stress for up to 24 hours, it's important to avoid being the "weekend warrior" and make it a goal of keeping a semi-daily routine. Remember, consistency is key. It's also critical that you match your body to where it's at physically, and even emotionally. If it's having to use its resources elsewhere, say to fight a cold or breastfeed a baby, then your personal exercise program won't be the same as someone else's. One great question to ask yourself is: What exercise will address what my mind and body need? If you are mad at work, for example, you may need to work it out aggressively on a hard run or dance class so you don't take that negative energy home. But if your kid was up sick all night and you got little sleep, you may just need a simple walk and a nap.

Ultimately, we want to make sure that we don't ask too much of the body, while at the same time encourage it to test its limits once in a while in order to get stronger and build endurance -- the kind of endurance every mother needs.
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Along with a well-balanced eating plan, exercise is important for losing weight and maintaining your overall health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

With planning, you can easily fit 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity into your routine most days of the week.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include:
  • Walking (3 mph).
  • Water aerobics.
  • Bicycling (less than 10 mph).
  • Tennis (doubles).
  • Ballroom dancing.
Some examples of vigorous-intensity activities include:
  • Race-walking, jogging, running.
  • Swimming laps.
  • Bicycling (greater than 10 mph).
  • Tennis (singles).
  • Aerobic dancing.
To increase your levels of aerobic activity, first decide which activities you enjoy and look at your daily schedule to see where you can fit these activities in. If you're starting from little or no daily physical activity, begin with five to 10 minutes per day. Increase your duration every week by 10-minute increments until you're up to 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.

For maximum cardiovascular health, try to engage in all your aerobic activity at one time. But if your schedule doesn't permit it, you can break up the physical activity throughout the day.

 Since 1995 the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, recommendation has been that adults obtain at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on 5 or more days a week, for a total of at least 150 minutes a week. This was reiterated in the most recent physical activity guidelines set forth in 2008 by the federal government. However, the CDC /ACSM recommendation was too specific; thus, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was slightly modified. In other words, existing scientific evidence does not allow researchers to say, for example, whether the health benefits of 30 minutes on five days a week are any different from the health benefits of 50 minutes on three days a week. As a result, the new guidelines allow a person to accumulate 150 minutes a week in various ways.

How much you exercise depends on what your specific goals are. If you have set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight in a given time period then you will want to exercise 4 - 5 times a week. However, if you want to exercise just enough to be able to do everyday activities without being winded or worn out; you will want to exercise 2 - 3 times a week. It all depends on what you want to achieve as to how much you should exercise. If you are an athlete or aspiring to be an athlete then you will want to exercise 5 - 6 times a week. When it comes to what you want to achieve with your exercise program then you want to think not only about how much exercise but also how to exercise to reach your goals.

According to NASM, the General Health Activity Recommendation states you should engage in 30 minutes total per day (5-7 days per week). You can do that in 1 30 minute session, or split it up into 2 15 minute sessions etc.

These exercises should be moderate, which is enough to increase your heart and respiratory rates. Some examples would be using the stairs, walking, etc.

For Improved Fitness the recommendation is 20-60 minutes per day, 3-5 days per week your intensity should be greater than moderate (more specifically 60-90% of your max HR) some examples would be using a treadmill at an incline above 3, stationary bike, stepper, aerobics classes, sports, and weight training.

Always remember to make it something you enjoy doing, this way you are more inclined to stick with it.

You should be physical everyday. Just don't sit all day. Generally aerobic activity should consists of 20 minutes or more 3-4 days a week.  Add 20-30 minutes of weight training done on opposite days and it should produce a nice balance.  If you don't like the typical aerobic workouts using machines, try playing a sport that incorporates aerobic activity to break up the routine (soccer, tennis, swimming, track, basketball, etc...). 
William B. Salt II., MD
The consensus on recommendations for physical activity is a minimum
of thirty minutes of moderate intensity activity on most days of the week, or 150 minutes per week. There is a growing consensus that more exercise may be necessary to enhance long-term weight loss. All healthy adults between the ages of eighteen to sixty five should be getting at least thirty minutes of moderate intensity activity five days of the week. However, there are additional guidelines for those sixty-five and older or for those fifty to sixty-four with chronic conditions or physical functional limitations (e.g., arthritis) that affect movement ability or physical fitness.

Continue Learning about Types Of Exercise

Types Of Exercise

Types Of Exercise

Exercise provides many health benefits - from fitness to increased physical and mental energy. In order to prepare yourself for a exercise routine, you need to research which exercise is right for you and how to fit a new exercise ...

e program into your daily schedule.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.