How Much Exercise Does an Individual Need to Be Healthy?

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Exercise
Courtesy of Nenad Stojkovic (Flickr CC0)

Transitioning from a restrictive diet to a healthy one after two years of confinement can seem daunting. While a nice pair of Nikes or a costly Peloton might appear to be the best route to physical health, it does not have to come at a financial sacrifice. Getting into good physical shape is not as difficult as people might believe.

It is a no-brainer, of course: More movement must be good for anyone, right? But determining what type of physical exercise is beneficial can be tricky.

According to Melissa Bopp, associate professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, people must determine if exercise or physical activity is the same. In other words, does the activity include exercising?

Any physical exercise that increases energy expenditure beyond the resting level is occupational (walking or lifting), domestic such as housework, transportation (bicycling), or leisure (volunteer work).

Experts claim that engaging in some physical activity, no matter how mundane, is preferable to doing nothing. Aerobic activity is the highest priority for improving heart health, lowering the chance of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, and improving mental well-being.

While age may play a role in determining what physical activity is best for an individual, there are also certain caveats to keep in mind, such as fitness level and age. Tai chi and swimming are excellent examples of this sort of activity.

People can use the CDC’s online exercise planner to estimate the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week they should spend mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.

Exercise
Courtesy of You Belong In Longmont (Flickr CC0)

Scientists have been trying to pinpoint the amount of physical activity people need for many years. What is the appropriate dose of physical activity? Is it 150 minutes split into 30-minute sessions of aerobic exercise daily? The American Physical Activity Guidelines for 2008 concluded that individuals could accommodate 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

Professor Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences examined epidemiological data showing that 150 minutes of weekly exercise decreased the risk of premature death and debilitating diseases such as stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and several forms of cancer.

Physical exercise is encouraged to be spread out evenly throughout the week. Even small amounts of physical activity can help an individual stay healthy and lose weight; so the guidelines recommend at least 300 minutes of activity weekly. However, even short physical activity throughout the day can have positive health benefits.

Strength training twice a week is ideal for all major muscle groups. Choose a weight or resistance level that fatigues the muscles after 12 to 15 reps to perform one set of each exercise.

Biking, brisk walking, swimming, or even lawn mowing are moderate forms of aerobic exercise. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes running, heavy yard labor, and aerobic dancing. Weight machines, body weight, heavy bags, resistance tubing, and resistance paddles in the water are all examples of strength training.

Reducing sitting time is also essential. Even if the person gets the correct amount of daily physical activity, sitting for long periods can negatively affect health and longevity. The sitting time may impact weight loss.

Moderate physical exercise is essential in maintaining or losing weight. Even brief bouts of activity have advantages. For example, if an individual cannot walk for 30 minutes throughout the day, try walking for 5 minutes instead. Even a little physical movement can make a significant difference in keeping a person healthy.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas

Sources:

Inverse: How Much Exercise Do You Actually Need to be “Healthy?”
Mayo Clinic: How much should the average adult exercise every day?; by Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.
CDC: How much physical activity do adults need?

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Nenad Stojkovic’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Province of You Belong In Longmont‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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