How Much Exercise is Enough?

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Many people mistake being busy for being active. Your feet can be aching and you can feel as though you haven’t sat down all day…but that doesn’t mean that you’ve been physically active!

Thirty minutes of brisk walking five days a week is sufficient to lower the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It’s not likely to help with weight control, though.

It’s better to do 45 minutes or an hour of exercise six or seven days a week to lose weight. Women who gained less than five pounds over 13 years were active for about an hour a day.

If an hour seems like an awful lot, remember that you don’t have to do it all at once! You can do 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and 20 minutes in the evening (or however you’d prefer to split it up).

Without strength training, you start to lose muscle at age 40 if you’re a woman and at age 50 if you’re a man. You’ll lose about one to two percent of your muscle every year if you don’t do something to prevent it! You also lose bone as you age and strength training can help to stem the loss of bone and can rebuild lost muscle. Cardio alone is not enough!

Make sure that you’re continually reaching for new goals when exercising and try not to do the same routine every day. This will help to make sure that every muscle group gets attention and that you’re continuously improving your cardiovascular health. It will also prevent boredom.

The amount of time required to adapt to a new level of activity probably depends on age. Youth and young adults can probably safely increase activity by small amounts every week or two. Older adults appear to require more time to adapt to a new level of activity, in the range of two to four weeks. First, increase the number of minutes per session (duration), and the number of days per week (frequency) of moderate-intensity activity. Later, if desired, increase the intensity. Inactive people who gradually progress over time to relatively moderate intensity activity have no known risk of sudden cardiac events, and very low risk of bone, joint, or muscle injuries.

Exercise alone does not seem to be the key to losing weight. You must both exercise and modify your eating habits to see a change on the scale. Likewise, going to the gym isn’t going to keep you healthy if you’re sedentary for the rest of the day. Even among people who exercise on a regular basis, sitting for at least six hours a day leads to a higher risk of premature death than people who sat for less than three hours. When we are sitting, our muscles are not contracting, which makes the pancreas secrete less insulin and so it takes longer to clear fat and sugar from the blood. In fact, we should all get up and move every 30 minutes or so when doing sedentary work.

Exercise makes belly fat disappear. Some people notice their pants fit differently when they start exercising, even if they haven’t lost weight. That’s because they’ve lost belly fat. This is very important, because it’s the most dangerous kind of fat. Belly fat leads to both diabetes and heart disease.

My reply to people who want to know what the best or most effective type of exercise is and what the best or most effective diet is…

…whatever you can commit to for a long time.