We all understand that in order to achieve supreme health, we need to exercise daily and eat a nutritious diet. Being physically active provides an array of health benefits from preventing heart disease, alleviating depression, improving your memory, controlling weight gain, and even gives you more energy. This is all great! But the question is: how often should you exercise and what types of exercising should you participate in?
According to the American Heart Association, to improve overall cardiovascular health, you should engage in at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes (1.25 hours) per week of vigorous exercise. An easy way to remember how often you should exercise is to engage in roughly 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 times a week. For people trying to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol levels, it is recommended to spend 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, an activity that causes an increase in your heart rate, 3-4 times a week.
What Classifies as Moderate and Vigorous Exercise?
Exercise experts measure physical activity in metabolic equivalents, aka METs. An MET is the energy it takes to sit, sleep or not engage in any activity. Research states that the average adult burns about one calorie per every 2.2 pounds of body weight, per hour. For example, for a person who weighs 160 pounds would burn an estimated 70 calories per hour while sitting or sleeping.
In order to estimate what classifies as moderate or vigorous exercise, consider this: moderate exercise is when you burn 3-6 times (3-6 METs) as much energy per minute as you would when you a sitting. Vigorous exercise is activity that burns more than 6 METs.
Physical exercise truly consists of anything that gets your blood pumping, body moving and calories burning. To help you better gage what types of activities to engage in throughout your daily exercise, consider that following examples of moderate and vigorous exercises:
Examples of Moderate Exercise:
- Briskly walking (estimate 4 mph)
- Bicycling at an relaxed pace (10-12 mph)
- Strength-training exercises such as squats, lunges, or sit-ups
Examples of Vigorous Exercise
- Jogging (6 mph)
- Soccer, basketball, Tennis
- Cross-fit training
Due to the time commitment, people are often discouraged from working out even before they start. New research shows us that combining moderate and vigorous exercise and engaging in smaller bursts of activity over the course of a week, is just as beneficial as engaging in more vigorous exercise. Studies show that interval training, which means alternating between different intensities of exercise, can burn more fat and increase fitness levels with only 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. This type of exercise consists of short bursts of motion that increases your heart rate and then is followed by short periods of rest or lower intensity workouts.
Interval exercise is great for all ages and physical conditions. Depending on your level of fitness, you can scale each workout accordingly. For example, a very active person’s sprinting speed on a treadmill for 3 minutes will be a very different speed than that of sedentary persons. Although the speeds of the two workouts are different, the health benefits are comparable. Each individual is increasing his or her endurance and speed from one single exercise.
Exercising doesn’t have to be difficult. It is understood that everyone is at a different level of fitness. If you are an individual who sits a lot, make a goal to just start moving daily. Go for long walks each day and work your way up towards trying interval training. For an individual who is very active, experiment with new workouts and push yourself to understand how you can have more effective workouts. As we now know, it isn’t the length of the exercise that counts, but it is the quality of activity and consistency that matters.