How much exercise should I do?

posted in: Move, Resources | 0

by Charlene Hutsebaut

Our fitness expert Charlene Hutsebaut is asked on a regular basis, “How much exercise should I do?”  We cover this in full in Chapter 10 of The De-Stress Diet but here is a quick guide to get you going. The answers will depend on a person’s age, fitness and injury history, time and often left out of the mix – likes and dislikes. Research shows we only keep things up to a successful level when we ultimately enjoy them; maybe not at first as our muscles strengthen but when we are at a fitness level where we can relax into them more.

Consider these elements when embarking on or continuing your exercise and activities. Your healthy lifestyle will be like practicing anything else in your life.  It takes a bit of planning and then regular gentle repetition.

As far as professional standards, Charlene believes the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has the best guidelines available today.  Here are a few tips from their website, which you can also link to at the end of this section.  These are the recommendations for a healthy adult under the age of 65 years and remember guidelines are just that and you should feel what is right for you within them.  Guidelines for adults above 65 years are available on the ACSM site.

Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:

Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week


Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week


Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. It should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.

With busy work schedules, family obligations, and packed weekends, it can often be difficult to get the recommended amount of physical activity. Try these tips for incorporating exercise into your life:

  • Do it in short bouts. Research shows that moderate-intensity physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day in 10-minute bouts, which can be just as effective as exercising for 30 minutes straight. This can be useful when trying to fit physical activity into a busy schedule.
  • Mix it up. Combinations of moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity can be used to meet the guidelines. For example, you can walk briskly for 30 minutes twice per week and jog at a higher intensity on two other days.
  • Set your schedule. Maybe it’s easier for you to walk during your lunch hour, or perhaps hitting the pavement right after dinner is best for you. The key is to set aside specific days and times for exercise, making it just as much a regular part of your schedule as everything else.
  • The gym isn’t a necessity. It doesn’t take an expensive gym membership to get the daily recommended amount of physical activity. A pair of athletic shoes and a little motivation are all you need to live a more active, healthier life.
  • Make it a family affair. Take your spouse, your children, or a friend with you during exercise to add some fun to your routine. This is also a good way to encourage your kids to be physically active and get them committed early to a lifetime of health.

For more information on exercise guidelines please see the ACSM Physical Activity & Public Health Guidelines website