How much exercise is enough? Most people know that regular physical activity is good for health. However, many aren’t sure what sort of exercise they should do, or how much. Getting into a regular exercise habit needs planning and a bit of discipline. This post goes through what the minimum recommendations are and how to achieve them. It also includes a printable workout tracker to help you get into a regular routine.
How much exercise do we need?
Most exercise recommendations that we see are based on research by the American College of Sports Medicine. Their recommendations for aerobic physical activity are as follows:
Adults aged 18–64 years should do:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity throughout the week
- or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week
- or an equivalent combination of both types
What do moderate intensity and vigorous intensity mean?
You can assess exercise intensity accurately with a heart rate monitor, but as a rough guide:
Any activity you need to put a bit of energy into and which makes you a bit warmer. For example:
- Household chores
- Car cleaning
- Walking at normal pace
Activities that make you very warm. During vigorous exercise, you may be aware of your heart beating more quickly. If you’re working at this level. then you would find it more difficult to hold a conversation.
Combining both types of physical activity
So the guidelines are 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. However, it’s unlikely that anyone will do 75 minutes of vigorous activity and no moderate activity at all. In reality, you’ll probably do a combination of both.
Working out whether you are meeting the minimum guidelines isn’t totally straightforward. We need twice as much moderate activity (150 min) as vigorous activity (75 min). Therefore, if you’re doing a combination, the total minutes will be somewhere in between 75 and 150. The table below shows various possible time splits to make up the minimum. You can use this together with the printable workout tracker to plan and track your activity timetable.
Safety note for vigorous physical activity
If you do vigorous exercise, then you need to warm up and cool down. Warming up prepares the joints and muscles for the activity. Taking a few minutes to cool down is important too, because stopping vigorous exercise suddenly can cause problems. This is because the muscles help to return blood to the heart. If they stop working suddenly, the heart may pump blood around the body faster than it comes back. This can cause dizziness or even fainting.
So you need to allow at least 5 minutes for warm up and cool down. However, these 5 minutes count as moderate exercise.
It’s also important to be in good health generally. If you have any medical conditions, strenuous exercise may not be advisable. Check with your health care professional if you are not sure.
What counts as vigorous exercise?
Activities that you need to do for aerobic fitness are ones which increase your heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. However, they need to be at a level that you can keep up for the whole workout. Examples of suitable activities are:
- Fast walking
- Rope skipping
- Step aerobics
- Dance based workouts
How to use the printable workout tracker
You can use the tracker to record all you activity minutes. Write down any activities you do each day and enter the minutes in the correct column. Put vigorous activity in the “Exercise mins” column and moderate activity in the “Activity mins” column. Then total the minutes for each day. At the end of the week, add up all the daily totals and complete the weekly totals box. Then compare your totals to the table above to see if you are meeting the minimum recommendations.
Get a copy of the tracker e-mailed to you
Enter your e-mail address below to get a link to the tracker download:
After you sign up, you’ll get 2 e-mails:
The first will ask you for a one-click confirmation of your subscription
Once you’ve confirmed, you’ll get a second e-mail with a link to your download