How Much Exercise Do You Need?

by in Healthy Tips, September 25, 2011
women walking
How much exercise do you need, and what kind is best?

Do you spend countless hours at the gym each day or is the thought of a 20-minute workout too much for you to handle? Tackling a regular exercise routine can be daunting and might cause you to give up on working out all together. Use these tips to make the most of your exercise time.

How Much?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the CDC, you should shoot for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity per week. You can break up this time in a variety of ways. Feel the burn for 30 minutes, 5 days a week or try a split of 30 and 60-minute workouts over the course of 3 days. Even if 150 minutes is more than you’re ready for, every little bit helps. The American Heart Association reports that every hour of walking may increase your life expectancy by two hours.

What Type?

Your body is best served by a combination of both cardiovascular and resistance exercise. So combinations of walking, running or biking (just to name a few options) along with some weight training, pull ups and sits ups, or yoga will cover all your bases.

Tips for Success
If the desire to exercise doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t give up! These tips can help keep you on track:

  • Find something you enjoy – forcing something you hate won’t stick long term.
  • Start slow and work your way up – doing too much at first can lead to injury and then you can’t exercise at all!
  • Enlist a friend or family member to help stay motivated.
  • Diversify! Change up the workouts to keep things interesting.
  • Fuel your workouts properly to make sure you are energized.
  • Make a day off part of your plan. It’s a good way to find balance and you’ll reduce your risk of injury.

Is the gym not your thing? Check our our top suggestions for Getting More Exercise Without Knowing It

Tell Us: How much time do you dedicate to exercise?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (29)

  1. Casey says:

    I am currently trying to lose weight, do you suggest I try more than 150 mins/week? Also, I'm having a tough time fitting in exercise. By the end of the day I just feel exhausted. Any help? Thanks!

    • Mary says:

      The best way to loose fat is running. To loose weight just eat less, there is no other way. You can eat less calories by consuming your veggies and fruit, but remember that the problem is the amount of food you eat. 5 apples have as much as 400 calories. It is said that the amount of calories you just consume to loose weight are 1200 calories. If you weight 175 you consume doing nothing, about 1700. Each 100 grms of human fat are about 760 calories so by that you can see that it will take time. The good news is that when you loose weight, most of it is water so don't worry that much for numbers. Just be constant.

      • Bob says:

        Swimming is much better than running. When you run, if you are not physically fit, then you could really hurt yourself and REALLY set yourself back. I suggest if you are just starting out doing some swimming its much better cardio vascular and works ALL the muscles in the body. You'll feel the difference right away.

    • heather says:

      Exercise in the morning. It is really hard the first week or two but then you get into the rhythm of it.

    • Karen says:

      I am also trying REALLy hard to lose weight. I know the struggle you are having :-). I still have about 60 pounds left to lose. And now I also found that if I do what the calorie-counter websites tell me to do, I don't lose anything. So I actually had to begin a major calorie restriction….where I only eat no more than 800 calories a day and I now am working out twice a day. But for me it was about splitting the time up. I had back surgery in January.
      But here is the thing: it was the back surgery and the consequent therapy I had to begin doing that got me on the path of exercise. It became a matter of necessity for me. I HAD to get in the water to move around just to learn how to walk again. My leg had gone completely dead, so I had to re-train it. And it was *that* process that got me slowwwly swimming. (more to follow…)

    • Karen says:

      But I believe you WILL get to the point where your tired feeling will ease a bit. The cardio benefit is that you will oxygenate your body more and develop a bit more energy. Begin drinking TONS more water…. I try to drink 100 ounces each day…. and although caffeine probably helps you get through the day, it will also not help you get to the exercise. I began Green tea…..although I never really liked it much. Also, I do not know if this will make a difference, but I cut way back on wheat/gluten for now. I was tested awhile ago and told that I do not have the disease; but that I may have a slight intolerance simply because many people do and do not realize it. So, I cut gluten out and amazingly I felt better :-). I had more energy and I did not feel so crappy all over all the time. It took about a couple weeks to get used to not eating wheat, but once I got over that little hump, the outcome was amazing! It is I think one of the major reasons why I have more energy too. (more to follow…)

    • Karen says:

      So, I don't know your entire situation. but I do believe that you will do very well with your routine once you begin that One Day. And really, I know this is a cliche now but: please start slowly. I think the fact that I was forced to start slowly is what helped me tremendously.
      If I had one thing to tell you to do because you are exhausted by the end of the day it would be this: If you cannot fit any exercise into your mornings, then after work or whatever you do, just get to the pool. Just get in the water and move. Don't go all out swimming laps right away….. just move around and play a little. Because the moving in water will increase your blood flow and oxygen and it will also stretch and relax your muscles. You will probably be able to sleep better as well. Then the eventual benefit will be more energy :-).
      Good Luck!

    • meperry says:

      Hi! I personally run because I enjoy it. I gave myself one year to train for a half marathon, and once I completed it I was hooked. Just find what you enjoy. I also am beyond exhausted after work and I have learned that getting my exercise done in the morning is the way to go for me. Getting up so early may seem daunting, but just try!

    • Susan says:

      I have lost about 50 lbs. over the last year. What worked for me and may help you is to make sure you check the serving sizes on products you are eating and stick to them. Also, I switched to wheat pasta, breads and wraps. When eating a salad, pour the dressing into a cup and dip your fork into the dressing then into the salad. You will be amazed at the small amount of dressing you will actually use.
      For exercise I used the "walk fit" cds by Leslie Sansone. I change out of my work clothes and into exercise clothes as soon as I get home so I am not tempted to go anywhere instead of exercising.
      And one more big thing….If you are craving something, go ahead and eat it, but only eat half and toss the rest. This will cure the craving and then you will be more likely to stick to the good stuff down the road. Hope this helps you like it helped me!

  2. Dawn says:

    Swimming is good cardio and resistant exercise…try it, you may like it!

  3. Tom says:

    If you are having trouble fitting in exercise try being a little creative like a 10 minute walk early in the morning or after eating same at lunch and in the evening. Nobody says you have to do it all at one time? Sometimes I just walk the isles when grocery shopping just to get my exercise in walking down each isle or parking further from the store. Breaking it down in smaller increments is easier and not as stressful when you are busy. Also if you are real heavy or have issues walking than try swimming as it has less stress and weight on your joints in a pool. Even walking around your house, apartment or work is better than no exercise.

  4. Sara says:

    I work out about 5 days a week, for at least an hour, and I go for long walks alot. I also use the stairs whenever possible, at subway stations, and wherever. At one point we had a contest going at work, and we all had to wear odometers to count our steps. It made me take the long way to everywhere! and it was fun.

  5. Allen says:

    Mixing it up and finding something you enjoy is key.

    I do 15 minutes of cardio, 45 minutes strength training and 10 minutes of core four times a week. Once a week I do Zumba, and at least once a week I go to the community pool and do laps for an hour.

    I'm always changing my routine based off of ideas from magazines and online articles. It allows your muscles to grow and keeps your routine fresh and exciting.

  6. Ann says:

    I workout 6 days a week. I'm currently training for my second Ironman. I have a coach who puts together my training plan. Swim workouts Mondays and Fridays (also lift on Fridays). Run Tuesdays. Spin and lifting session on Wednesdays. Rest Thursday. Long bike on Saturdays and long run on Sundays. The workouts themselves vary from week to week. I probably get 10 hours of exercise per week right now. It'll increase to 15-18 by next spring/summer. Love it! Instead of eating lunch, I often will using my lunch hour to exercise. I eat at my desk while I work. Sometimes I do two-a-day workouts. You make exercise a priority. We all have the time. We all have the energy. Just do it! Get it done! Quit making excuses. Your life starts now!

  7. Carol says:

    I am heavier than I want to be, so am soaking up advice given by all of you for that. But – as far as finding the time to work out – someone that lost a lot of weight put it this way to me "We all have the same 24 hours a day. How you use yours and prioritize makes the difference" That puts it in perspective…. I am heavy because I use my 24 hours differently than a more in shape person – THAT is what needs to change to make a big change in my physical body and health – how I use my 24 hours. (eat less and move more!) :)

  8. Janet says:

    How many calories should you be consuming if you are a woman, 57 that exercises everyday. at least 4 days a week in the gym doing cardio and weights?

  9. jordanbee says:

    I walk with my sister at night. It gives us time to talk and adds a little to my gym routine.

  10. Mario says:

    P90X. My weight was 235 lbs. You do P90X at home (intense workout) for 90 days. P 90= minutes and X = EXTREAM. I am now 178 lbs. The first 30 days I lost the fastest and it slowed a little after that. P90X is about working out hard 5 days a week (about 45 to 1 hr a day) Sunday off or stretch for one hr and eating 5 to 6 times a day (small breakfast, a snack 2 hrs later like an apple, small lunch like a salad or one sandwich, snack like a granola bar, and a dinner like a 4 ounce chicken or lean steak or fish, veggies ect). I eat about 1200 cal. a day and burn about 1700 or more cal’s a day. P90X works If you want to know look me up at…. I would love to help you!!!

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