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How Much Exercise Do I Need?

This question is often on the minds of not only those starting an exercise program, but also those who are experienced exercisers. So how much exercise is really needed to gain the proven benefits? How hard should you workout? How often?

This article is written with the intention of answering these questions from a research based perspective. With all the information readily available on exercise I think it is important to re-visit what the research really shows.

First off, I want to review the proven benefits of a regular exercise program. This is information that comes from research conducted all over the world and documented in the most recent edition (ninth edition) of the Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription which is published by the American College of Sports Medicine. These guidelines are the gold standard for exercise prescription and are updated frequently. Additionally, this information is represented in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Proven health Benefits of Regular Exercise
Lower risk of early death
Lower risk of coronary heart disease
Lower risk of stroke
Lower risk of high blood pressure
Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profil
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
Lower risk of colon cancer
Lower risk of breast cancer
Lower risk of lung cancer
Lower risk of endometrial cancer
Prevention of weight gain and obesity
Lower risk of Osteoporosis with increase bone density
Reduce depression
Improved functional health (the ability to engage in activities of daily living)
Prevention of Falls
Lower risk of hip fracture
Improved Cognitive function
Improved sleep quality

So it sounds to me that…EXERCISE IS MEDICINE!

Now, to answer the question as to how much exercise, and how hard you should exercise, to reap the above benefits I summarized the research below.
•150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity such as brisk walking at 3.0 mph or tennis. Or an intensity ranking of 5-6 on a scale of 0-10. This is the minimal level of activity needed to receive benefits.
•75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity such as jogging or swimming laps. To be vigorous your intensity ranking should be 7-8 on a scale of 0-10.
•An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity is also recommended.
•Individuals who maintain a regular program of physical exercise that is longer in duration and/or is more vigorous in intensity are likely to derive greater benefit than those that do lesser amounts. But be careful not to over train. Overtraining can easily lead to injury.
•Spread your episodes of exercise throughout the week. You can also split up the amount of time per day as long as you hit the 150 minutes total.

For even greater health benefits, as well as weight loss, do one of the following:
•Increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) each week
•Increase vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week

Now regarding the 150 minutes, a good way to think about it is that you have 7 days to get that 2 ½ hrs. of cardiovascular exercise completed. Seven days…very doable I think! And you can divide it up anyway you like based on how busy you are for the week. For example you could do ½ hr. of cardio followed by ½ hr of strength training (more on that below) on one day and then change it the next.

All this requires is a little weekly planning and you will definitely reap the benefits from regular exercise.

Also remember the intensity of your cardio needs to be at a moderate level as described above. It drives me crazy as I walk through the club and see someone sitting on a recumbent bike reading the paper and pedaling really slow. You will not get much benefit if that is how hard you are working. Now if you have a knee issue and just working on range of motion that’s fine, but in most cases that is not what I see.

General Weight Loss Tips

To lose 1 pound, you need to have a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. It is recommended that women consume 2000 calories per day on average & for men it is 2500

To lose 1 pound per week, you need to decrease calorie consumption by 3500 calories, or 500 calories per day

To lose 2 pounds per week, you need to decrease calories consumption by 7000 calories, or 1000 calories per day

Now what about strength training?

Resistance Training Guidelines:

The American College of Sports medicine also released guidelines for resistance training based on the current research and is illustrated in the table below. Resistance or strength training should be implemented on a regular basis (2-3 days/week) in addition to cardiovascular exercise described above.

Resistance training should include all major muscle groups with the use of functional movement patterns or what is sometimes called multi-joint exercises.

    Frequency    Intensity      Repetitions       Sets         Type
2-3 days/week

With at least 48 hours rest for the same muscle group

Moderate to hard; the last repetition should be difficult 8-12 (healthy adults)

10-15 (older adults)

2-1, with a rest interval of 2-3 minutes between sets Multi-joint exercises using more than one muscle group. (may also include single-joint exercises)

Additional Strength Training Tips:

Muscular Endurance Training: long duration muscle use. Lower weight, higher rep, shorter rest

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 12-15+
Rest: 30 seconds or less

Muscular Hypertrophy: strength and muscular growth

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 6-12, You should feel like the last few reps are difficult
Rest: 30-90 Seconds

Muscular Power: strength and speed. Explode

Sets: 1-4
Reps: 1-3
Rest: 2-3 or more minutes

When we use the word “exercise’ it means something different to everyone. I covered both cardiovascular and strength exercise above but we also need to include other forms or categories of “exercise”.

For example many individuals need flexibility or mobility exercise. And yes, they are 2 different entities. Others may need corrective exercise specifically focusing on any physical issues. While others would benefit from balance/fall prevention programming and neuromotor training. These topics can be discussed in a future newsletter.

I hope this information will answer some general questions about exercise, and show that there is real science behind exercise. Remember our professional fitness staff is here to help with your experience at Sky Fitness, so don’t hesitate to ask us for assistance.

Dedicated To Your Success,

Mark Tolle
Fitness Manager