Working out can provide you with a range of benefits, from improving your memory to helping you maintain a healthy weight. But there is the nagging question of how much exercise you need in a week to get those benefits.
This question is important to answer as not everyone has a lot of time to dedicate to exercising. To give you an idea of how much exercise you should aim to do every week, read on.
Minimum Amount of Physical Activity A Week
With the assistance of a panel of doctors, scholars, and researcher from places like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services produced the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
These guidelines were based on decades of exercise science research along with current health issues facing Americans. They were designed to provide a baseline to help people start exercising and maintain better health.
There are different guidelines for children and adolescents, as well as guidelines for adults. There’s also a separate set of guidelines for senior adults. As the readership here generally falls in the adult non-senior variety, I want to focus on the adult recommendations.
It is recommended that adults put in 150 minutes of physical activity every week. This activity can be spaced out throughout the week. For example, if you find time for at least 30 minutes of exercise over the course of five days, you will be able to reach the minimum requirements. However, the intensity of the exercise matters.
The guidelines stipulate that the 150 minutes of exercise need to be of moderate intensity, as well as being aerobic activities. If you engage in a vigorous-intensity type of aerobic exercise, then you can meet the minimum recommendation in just 75 minutes a week.
Go Beyond The Minimum For Greater Health Benefits
Just by meeting these minimum guidelines, researchers have found that there is a variety of health and wellness benefits you can enjoy. Some of the key benefits identified are:
- Lessen anxiety and depression
- Lower risk of some cancers
- Reduce cardiovascular risks like coronary heart disease and hypertension
- Help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevent and treat type 2 diabetes
These benefits alone are pretty tempting, as many of these diseases claim thousands of lives every year. However, there are more health benefits if you choose to push yourself beyond the minimum guidelines.
The researchers who produced these guidelines also mentioned that by including 300 minutes of moderate-intensity—or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity—you can enjoy further health benefits. Some benefits like preventing unhealthy weight gain and greater reduction of health risks like cardiovascular diseases are some of the benefits you can enjoy.
Also, the guidelines make it clear that there is no identified max amount of physical activity per week that you can do.
What Kinds of Workouts Should You Be Doing
Whether you choose to meet the minimum physical activity guidelines or push yourself further is best for you—and perhaps a doctor—to determine. But, it can be confusing to determine what qualifies as moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity.
To help you determine what activities count as moderate or vigorous, here are some examples:
Moderate-intensity aerobic activities
- Walking briskly at 2.5 MPH or faster
- Tennis (doubles)
- Line or ballroom dancing
- Bicycling 10 MPH or slower
- Movement-focused yoga like Vinyasa
- Water aerobics
- Everyday yard work like raking leaves
Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities
- Jogging and running
- High-intensity dancing like salsa and Zumba
- Uphill hiking or backpacking
- Step aerobics
- Lap swimming
- Cycling faster than 10 MPH
- Tennis (singles)
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
With a range of workout choices, you don’t have to feel like you are trapped and have to do a particular type of workout like running or bicycling. Also, while weight lifting was not specifically mentioned as one of these activities, that is in part due to the fact that it can be a highly variable activity.
If you would like to incorporate weight lifting into your regular routine and still enjoy the health benefits, keeping your heart rate up can be a good way to be sure that you are hitting the right level of intensity. Generally, calculating a heart rate of 65-75% of your overall max will help you stay around moderate-intensity while weightlifting.
By meeting at least the minimum physical activity guidelines, you can boost your overall health and help prevent health risks like coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And once you have mastered the minimum amount, you can push yourself to higher levels of physical fitness.