Exercise is not the best tool for weight loss. However, if you want to feel better, sleep better, reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, and feel like you can do everything better, exercise is the best tool in the toolbox. According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), some health benefits start immediately after activity, and even short bouts of physical activity are beneficial.
Studies show there is benefit to ANY physical activity. It can be slow and long or short and intense. It doesn’t matter if you do all your daily exercise at once or do it five minutes at a time. The point is to do something, and do it daily.
However, if you want to aim for precise goals, here are the recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. “To attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.”
What is moderate to vigorous physical activity?
There are various was to measure intensity. I prefer the concept of relative intensity. Using this method, people pay attention to how physical activity affects their heart rate and breathing. Intensity level is subjective. What may be intense for one person may be less intense for someone else. For instance, I don’t play tennis, but if I were to try, I would probably be huffing and puffing after the first serve. On the other hand, I do aerobic dance, and it takes me a bit of effort to raise my heart rate.
In general, if you are doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you are engaged in vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
According to the CDC, examples of moderate-intensity activity are:
- Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
- Water aerobics
- Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
- Tennis (doubles)
- Ballroom dancing
- Examples of vigorous-intensity activity are:
- Race walking, jogging, or running
- Swimming laps
- Tennis (singles)
- Aerobic dancing
- Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
- Jumping rope
- Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
- Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
Not ready for this amount of activity? Any exercise is better than none. I don’t care if you are walking once around the table, it is better than sitting all the time. In fact, prolonged sitting is very unhealthy.
If you are new to exercise, be sure to talk to your medical provider before starting. Start slow and only do what feels comfortable. Most of all, do it. Find ways to battle every excuse. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your life. It may be hard, but it is worth it.