How much exercise do you really need?

How much exercise

You’re committed to losing weight and improving your health but you’re wondering how much exercise you really need to achieve your goals.

Reaping the health benefits of exercise might be easier than you think!

Will 10,000 steps a day be enough? Do I have to take up jogging? I hate the gym scene….is it necessary? Cross Fit, PX90, Insanity….really?  Everywhere you go you hear different advice, it’s confusing and overwhelming.

The following is a guide to help you determine basic exercise requirements in order to gain significant health benefits.

Start here and then adjust to suit your own needs based on your own goals.

The amount of exercise you actually need depends on:

  1. your reasons for exercising (health, physical appearance, sport performance etc.)
  2. your starting point, and
  3. how quickly you want to achieve your goals.

The type of exercise you choose depends on:

  1. your abilities and preferences,
  2. your time availability, and
  3. on the facilities readily available to you.

Exercising for health reasons is of the utmost importance to all of us.

Exercise can reduce the risk of a plethora of diseases including heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, several forms of cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and improve your moods.

To get these health benefits and more, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. They also suggest including strength training at least 2 days per week.  Of course more physical activity provides greater health benefits.

Moderate exercise is defined as exercise that makes you sweat and breath harder but not so hard that you can't carry on a conversation (ex brisk walking, washing your car by hand, raking the lawn). Vigorous exercise is defined as exercise that makes you sweat and become "out of breath" making maintaining a conversation difficult (ex jogging, playing hockey, cross-country skiing).

Recent research has shown that the higher the exercise intensity, the lower the time requirements to achieve the same health benefits; as little as 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week can be enough to reap the same health benefits as twice as much moderate exercise.

If your goal is to lose weight, the more exercise you do (within reason of course), the faster your progress will be.  For faster weight loss, double your goal to at least 300 minutes of moderate exercise/150 minutes of high intensity exercise per week.

Remember, your exercise minutes do NOT have to be consecutive, you can break it down into chunks. That means that adding simple things to your daily routine will make a difference. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from your destination, walking/biking to work or even dancing in the kitchen while making dinner. You don't have to find organized exercise classes or workout in a gym if that doesn't suit your preference or your schedule.

If you are new to exercise, be sure to get clearance from your physician and start slowly; no need to jump out of the starting gate right to the top of the time guidelines. Work your way up in increments that feel right.  Set reasonable, short term goals and you'll be seeing and feeling the results in no time.

Keep in mind that a balanced exercise regime includes some form of cardiovascular exercise, strength/resistance training as well as flexibility. There's no exact formula for success. The ideal form of exercise for you is simply the one that you'll actually do! Find something that you enjoy, is convenient and that you'll stick to.

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