Healthy Habits: How Much Exercise Do I Really Need

How long do you have to exercise for it to be enough exercise? Well, it mostly depends on your fitness goals.

A doctor and professor at the University of Tennessee, David Bassett Jr., Ph.D., outlines exercise this way: before you decide an exercise routine, you need to consider your goals for training– are you working out to increase your physical fitness, as a weight loss strategy, or to combat stress? Generally, if you are exercising just occasionally to feel better, doctor Susan Joy, a physician for the Sacramento Kings, advises a daily walking routine. However, if you have a specific goal, like weight loss, a healthy heart, or reduced blood pressure, you need to consider longer, more diverse forms of exercise.

Consistently exercising is right for you, no matter what your goals are. Regular exercise can help you live longer, combat diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression, boost your lung function and even reduce your blood pressure. Still not convinced? Here are exercise guidelines for three different goals– being more physically fit, losing weight and increasing your heart health.

Exercise Goals for General Fitness


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta suggests that you should do both aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening activities like weightlifting every week. Aerobic exercises, like speed walking, running, swimming, or biking, for example, all improve respiratory and aerobic capacity when performed regularly. Weightlifting exercises, a type of muscle strengthening activity, should target each dominant muscle group directly. You should aim to work out each muscle group two or more days per week.
Time-wise, you should aim for around 150 minutes, or approximately three hours, of moderately intense cardio exercises– 75 minutes of cardio can be substituted if it is more than somewhat vigorous. However, those are just a baseline– the more you exercise, the better. If you want to see the best results, try to aim for around five hours of moderate activity per week, three hours of intense cardio, or a blend of the two, depending on your ability level and time. The amount of time that you exercise should be spread out over the course of a week, rather than doing cardio for five hours one day. Aiming for around half an hour or an hour, five days a week is the easiest way to see noticeable increases in your physical health. Just be sure to exercise for at least ten minutes at a time to see benefits.

Exercise for Weight Loss

Recent research shows that to lose weight, try both exercising and dieting– a combination of the two is more effective than either one on their own. If you are trying exercise to lose weight, however, you might want to exercise for a little longer than if you were working out just to be physically fit. Studies have shown that working out for the general baseline set by the Centers for Disease Control provides only lackluster weight-loss results. To lose a significant amount of weight, the study’s authors recommend around four hours of exercise per week– or one hour a day, five days a week. If you are exercising at a higher intensity than just moderately, you may be able to work out for significantly less time. However, the more exercise you can do, the better!
Remember, once you hit your weight-loss goals, you have to continue working out and dieting to make sure that you don’t regain the weight that you worked so hard to lose. Exercise is more useful to prevent weight gain than it is in weight loss, so hitting the gym even after you’ve hit your goal is incredibly essential. To keep the weight off, try exercising for an hour a day, five days a week, the same amount of time as if you were looking to lose weight.
In your weight loss journey, remember to lift weights as well! Weightlifting can increase your metabolic rate, leading to more efficient weight loss. If you weightlift before you do your cardio, you could even improve the efficiency of the cardio you will do directly following it, which can be incredibly helpful for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Exercise for Heart Health

If you are looking to improve your heart health, you’re in luck! It’s as simple as thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week! Aerobic exercises, like cardio, for example, can improve things like your overall tolerance to insulin and glucose, as well as your blood pressure. Adding strength training at least twice a week is also helpful to build and preserve your lean muscle mass.
If you are actively trying to reduce your cholesterol or blood pressure levels, however, try increasing your time spent exercising to 40 minutes, three or four times out of the five that you head to the gym. But, before you decide to start an exercise routine, it is essential to discuss with your doctor what your exercise plans are, especially if you have high blood pressure or a history of other heart problems.

Do you have an exercise routine you’d like to share, or do you want more articles like this? Let us know with a comment in the comments section below!

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