Have you ever thought about how much exercise you should do per week?
You may have a personal goal, but what defines this?
Need a little help figuring out how often and for how long you should exercise each week?
Well, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has you covered with their updated weekly exercise guidelines. Find out if you’ve been putting in enough workout time. Every activity counts. Being active is one of the most important actions you can take to improve your health. Exercise is beneficial for both brain and body health. It can make you feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduce the risk of and prevent disease. Everyone benefits from exercise both immediately and in the long term. The good news is… every minute of exercise counts!
Here are the weekly DHHS recommendations:
150-300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
75-150 minutes (1 hour 15 min to 2.5 hours) of high or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
An equivalent combination of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise.
Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity of all major muscle groups are recommended two times per week.
Let’s dive in a little deeper. What do these intensities mean?
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise – Think of a brisk walk, doing yard work, swimming, biking on level ground or similarly intense activities. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not moving, and 10 being running as fast as you can, moderate-intensity is around a 5-6 on this scale. You may be able to talk and carry on a conversation with some breaks to catch your breath.
Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise – Think of jogging/running, playing sports like basketball, jumping rope, hiking uphill with a backpack on or activities of similar intensity. On the 0-10 scale you are working at around 7-8/10. At this level it is difficult to talk and carry on a conversation.
Every minute counts.
Moderate-intensity exercise counts about double vigorous-intensity. So 30 minutes of moderate-intensity equals about 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity.
Aerobic exercise should be spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits are gained with more than 300 minutes of moderate or greater intensity. The good news is anything that gets your heart beating faster counts.
If you can’t do this right now, do what you can. Use this guide to figure out your baseline, make attainable fitness goals, and work up to a goal that will fit these guidelines in an achievable time frame. For example, if you are currently working out 2 days a week for 30 minutes with moderate-intensity, your goal may be to increase one day a week for 30 minutes every other week for the next 6 weeks. So in 6 weeks you will be up to 5 days a week for 30 minutes which reaches the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week recommendation. If you are already there, use these guidelines to refine and maximize your fitness goals.
Every muscle counts.
Muscle strengthening of all major muscle groups – What are these muscle groups? You can split it up into upper and lower body. Upper body major muscle groups include: biceps, triceps, pectorals and back . Lower body major muscle groups include: quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. You can focus one day of strengthening on the upper body and one day of strengthening on the lower body or do a combination. You can use various kinds of resistance such as your own body weight, weights like dumbbells, resistance bands, etc. You want the load to feel at least heavy after several repetitions. To maintain strength do 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions 1-2 times per week. To build strength 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions 3-5 times per week. This is just a starting place but it is not an exact science. You can vary sets and repetitions and still reap the benefits of strengthening. If a weekly strengthening program is new to you try starting with 1 or 2 muscle groups and work up from there.
Ease into your new exercise routine to prevent injury and to build healthy habits. Be aware of delayed onset muscle soreness the next day. Don’t forget to increase your water intake. Take rest days as needed. Don’t get distracted if you miss a day or get off your routine. Be able to just pick it up again the next day.
Cheers to a healthier you!
Laurel grew up on the east coast in North Carolina. She studied biology at the University of North Carolina and received her Doctor of Physical Therapy in Boston at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. After graduating from physical therapy school, Laurel traveled all over the country as a contract physical therapist before she settled here in Northern California in the Bay Area. After working in various settings, Laurel realized her love for orthopaedics and has her Orthopaedic Clinical Specialty.
Laurel enjoys dabbling in various extreme sports with her favorites being mountain biking, snowboarding and kitesurfing. She has a passion for treating patients with sports specific injuries in order to help them get back to their sport in the full capacity. She enjoys hiking and paddling boarding with her dog, Koa. Laurel is a strong advocate for the field of physical therapy and writes for a local health and wellness magazine.