You might know someone who always seems to be headed to the gym or constantly jogging around the neighborhood. You might even be that person. But how much exercise do you need to be healthy?
Most people can follow this simple guideline: 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. However, your personal health goals may require you to be more active than that.
Types of activity and benefits of exercise
It’s important to consider that not all physical activities work the body in the same way. Aerobic training is one type of exercise, but most people simply call it cardio, which is short for cardiovascular. Your body uses oxygen to power through workouts such as swimming and jogging.
Benefits of cardio include:
- Better heart and lung health
- Increase in muscle tone
- Stronger immune system
Anaerobic training is another type. This involves higher intensity movement in short bursts. Think pushups, sprints and weightlifting. Your body uses glucose for these activities.
Benefits of anaerobic training include:
- Better joint health
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Stronger bones and increased bone density
Both types of exercise share certain benefits. For example, either type of workout can improve your mood and overall mental health.
How often should you exercise?
For most people, the recommended amount of exercise per week is at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio or 75 minutes of more vigorous cardio. Moderate cardio can include activities like swimming or even going for a brisk stroll. Running is an example of more vigorous cardio.
When it comes to strength training, try to work your major muscle groups at least twice a week. How do you know if a strength training workout is effective? Stick to weight loads that tire you out after 12 to 15 reps.
Tips for hitting your fitness goals
Involve friends. If you have friends or family members who share your fitness goals, ask them to join you in your workouts. This provides a good opportunity to socialize while staying active. Some workouts, such as weightlifting and jogging after dark, are also much safer when you have a partner.
Take your time. Don’t feel the need to hit all your workout goals in a single day. Spread your exercise sessions out throughout the week. To avoid fatigue and reduce the chances of injury, don’t strength train the same muscle group on consecutive days. Give those muscles a full day of rest.
Do what you can. Some weeks, you might fall short of your workout length goals. Perhaps you were under the weather for a few days or busy with work. On weeks like that, keep this in mind: even a little activity is better than no activity. Take a short walk. Do a few jumping jacks. Dance to your favorite song. A little movement can go a long way.
Going above and beyond
If your goals involve training for a competition, you’ll likely need far more than 150 minutes of activity each week. The same may be true for some people with weight loss goals.
If you plan to engage in an intense exercise routine, be sure to talk to your primary care provider first. They can offer advice on how much exercise is too much.
If you experience any of the following issues during a workout, end the activity and talk to your provider right away:
- Chest pain
- Fluttering feeling in your chest
- Sharp or nagging muscle or joint pain
- Shortness of breath
These may be signs of an injury or underlying problem. Or perhaps you’re simply trying to push yourself too hard.
Learn about the sports medicine services we provide at Mercy Health.