How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

When it comes to exercise, people have a tendency to take an all-or-nothing approach. Fitness has become associated with panting, standing doubled over and being drenched in sweat--but harder, faster, stronger isn't the only way to spell results. 

Sure, testing your limits can be fun, but when it comes to working out for health, studies suggest that you can back off on the intensity and still reap the benefits of exercise.  

If You Want to...Improve Overall Cardiovascular Health

When it comes to making sure your ticker stays healthy, exercise is key. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. 

An easy way to pencil the breakdown into your schedule is to aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five times a week. Swimming, running and biking are all great options, but you might be surprised to know that walking works, too. In fact, if you're new to fitness, walking could be your best bet because it's easy to stick with.

If You Want to...Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Looking to improve numbers before your next doctor's visit? The AHA recommends aiming for an average of 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity three to four times a week to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Other studies have found even less exercise has a payoff. A 2007 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that just three weekly sessions of moderate intensity exercise (think brisk walking) were enough to reduce systolic blood pressure and waist and hip girth. 

The combination of cutting even a few centimeters off hip and waist circumference, and experiencing a slight reduction in blood pressure, can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

If You Want to...Lose Weight

When it comes to shedding unwanted weight, 300 could be the magic number. A study published in JAMA Oncology found that 300 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous activity was linked to the greatest weight and body-fat loss.

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