Your body is made to move — that’s why a sedentary, inactive lifestyle is associated with everything from weight gain, joint pain, low energy, and poor sleep to declining health and chronic illness. Regular exercise, on the other hand, is included in virtually every “lifestyle modification prescription” for improved health.
You know exercise is important, but how much do you need to stay fit and healthy?
Here, family medicine specialist Dr. Lerner and our team of board-certified providers at Stuart Lerner, MD explore key benefits of regular physical activity, discuss general exercise guidelines, and take a closer look at how you can apply them effectively in your daily life.
Benefits of regular exercise
Getting regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your physical and mental health as well as your overall well-being. In the immediate term, exercise helps you feel, function, think, and sleep better; over the longer term, it helps you manage your weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, and reduce your chronic disease risk.
Anyone who decides to sit less and move more stands to make significant health gains. Benefits of regular moderate to vigorous physical activity include:
- Easier weight management
- A fitter, more mobile body
- Stronger, less painful joints
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Better cardiovascular health
- Increased fitness and mobility
- Healthier digestive function
- Improved energy and mood
- Better immunity; less illness
Regular exercise can also help you manage and improve chronic health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and depression; just as importantly, it lays the foundation for healthy aging by ensuring you’re able to move and stay active as you get older.
Physical activity guidelines
Very few lifestyle choices — chief among them healthy eating and refraining from smoking — have the power to shape your health for the better as much as regular physical activity. But how much exercise should you be getting to attain these benefits?
Let’s start by considering general exercise recommendations, which provide a good starting point for most people. Set forth by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advises young and middle-aged adults to:
- Move more and sit less throughout the day, every day
- Engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or
- Engage in 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or
- Engage in an equivalent combination of moderate- to vigorous-intensity each week
- Spread aerobic activity throughout the week
- Strength train all major muscle groups at least twice weekly
Bare minimum, you should aim to get at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity — or at least 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous aerobic activity — each week, along with at least two strength training sessions that work all your major muscle groups.
However, if you’re engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, you can gain additional health benefits by getting more than 300 minutes (five hours) of physical activity each week.
In real terms, this means it’s “good enough” to take a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week, but it’s “even better” for your health to take a brisk 45-minute walk every day.
Your daily exercise routine
During moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, light biking, or easy laps in the pool, you feel like you’re working — but you can still carry on a conversation. Vigorous aerobic workouts such as running, hiking or biking on challenging terrain, or energetic dance raise your respiration and heart rate, making it harder to chat with a workout partner.
What’s your fitness level?
While your current fitness level and overall health help determine the best exercise intensity for you, moderate activity is generally safe for the typical beginner exerciser, and vigorous activity is usually best for seasoned exercisers who are ready to take their fitness to the next level. Most people find that their workout options increase as their fitness improves.
Get up and get moving
At the end of the day, the total number of minutes you spend exercising each week is less important than your overall activity level. Why? Taking a 30-minute walk every day is always beneficial, but it’s less helpful if you’re sedentary for the rest of your waking hours.
In fact, the more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk of developing a metabolic disorder like type 2 diabetes — even if you get the minimum suggested amount of daily exercise.
When you’re short on time
Don’t worry if it’s difficult to find a longer stretch of open time in your daily schedule; you can benefit just as much from numerous brief bouts of activity as you can from a single, longer workout session. If you can’t take a 45-minute walk each day, take three shorter, 15-minute walks after each meal.
Your partners in wellness
Ready to get moving? We’re here to help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at Stuart Lerner, MD in Kailua, Hawaii today.