Exercise: How Much Do You Really Need?
Article by Bob Greene
You might be confused by just how much time you need to put in at the gym. Do you really have to log a full hour each day? Will 30 minutes a day cut it? Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the recommendations vary based on your goals: Maybe you simply want to reap the health benefits of activity, or perhaps you’re trying to prevent weight gain. Or, if you’re like many Americans, you’re trying to lose weight. Not to mention, the American College of Sports Medicine just released new exercise guidelines, which are a little more intense than the last batch they put out in 2001.
So, how much do you really need? Take a look at the chart below to find out how much workout time you should be logging:
To Protect Your Health and Prevent Disease – The ACSM recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (the amount you’d be getting at Activity Level 3) each week to reduce your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. That’s 30 minutes five days a week. And by moderate intensity, they mean your workout should be hard enough that you’re breathing deeply and feeling fatigued, a level 7 on the perceived exertion scale. You should still be able to talk, though you’d prefer not to, and although you’re tired, you feel like you could complete the entire workout at this pace.
To Prevent Weight Gain – Aim for 150 to 250 minutes per week. You can spread this out over four, five or six days, depending on your preferences and your schedule. (You can work out everyday if you’d like, although it can be beneficial to plan off days or at least light exercise days to give your body the chance to recover.)
To Peel off Pounds – At least 250 minutes per week (the amount of minutes you’re logging at Activity Level 4) provides the most significant weight loss, according to studies. You can spread that out over five days at 50 minutes a session; or you can plan six workout sessions, each about 42 minutes long. (The previously recommended 150 to 250 minutes per week produced only modest weight loss.)
To Prevent Regain – Similar to losing weight, you’ll have to work out more than 250 minutes per week to keep it off. Try new activities each week or so or enlist the help a workout partner to stay motivated.
In all cases, you should consider adding strength training to your workout routine. It can reduce the amount of body fat you carry around and may also cut your risk for diseases. (Strength training is part of Activity Levels 3, 4 and 5.)
My advice: Be sure to work in as much activity as possible keeping these guidelines in mind. But it’s also important to find an amount of exercise that you can sustain long-term, because if you try to add in too much and fail, you might be too frustrated to try again. So start with an amount that’s challenging but do-able, and gradually work your way up. Of course, the more you can do, the better, but even adding small amounts of activity to your day can make a big difference.
About the Author
Bob Greene is the founder of the highly acclaimed Best Life Diet brand. Through his books, foods, fitness products and website, Greene has helped millions lose weight and live their own personal best life, using his gradual three-phase approach to eating and exercise.