How Much Exercise Do I REALLY Need?

How Much Exercise Do I REALLY Need?

Many exercise fads have come and gone, each claiming to be the best way to get in shape, lose weight, and live longer. Some are extremely intense, and some are so minimal that they sound too good to be true.

The current government recommendations for exercise in an adult are:

  • 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity combined with 2 or more days of general muscle strengthening exercises WEEKLY —-OR—-
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity weekly combined with 2 or more days of general muscle strengthening exercises WEEKLY

So what defines moderate vs. vigorous activity?

  • Some examples of moderate activity are: walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on a flat surface, and pushing a lawn mower.
  • Some examples of vigorous activity are: Jogging or running, swimming, riding a bike fast or on hills, and playing basketball.
  • A good rule of thumb is:
    • During moderate activity, you should be able to talk with minimal to moderate effort, but not sing
    • During vigorous activity, you should not be able to say more than a few words without stopping to take a breath

This exercise does not have to be performed in 1 session…it can be broken up into smaller segments. If you choose to do this, make sure that you do the exercise in segments of at least 10-20 minutes.

Those recommendations do not sound like a lot, but the reality is that not everyone has the time to exercise on a regular basis. Between family and work life, household chores, and other commitments sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

The truth is that any exercise is better than nothing. A recent article published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise demonstrated that after 3 hours of sitting, be it in a car, at work, or on the couch, there was decreased blood flow in the superficial femoral artery. This was mitigated by standing and walking for just 5 minutes. So, while the above recommendations are for a minimum amount of exercise per week, don’t be discouraged if you can not obtain them. Perhaps make it your goal to eventually reach or exceed them, but realize that some REGULAR exercise is better than nothing at all, even if it is just 10 minutes per day during your lunch break.


  • Artioli GG, Bertuzzi RC, Roschel H, Mendes SH, Lancha AH Jr, Franchini E. Determining the contribution of the energy systems during exercise. J Vis Exp. 2012 Mar 20;(61) PubMed PMID: 22453254

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