How Much Exercise Do You Need?

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

We all know how important exercise is, but occasionally we wonder if we are doing enough to provide optimum results, or perhaps so much we risk burning out. We are looking to establish a “dose-response relationship” between exercise and health outcomes.

It may ultimately be impossible to prescribe a blanket amount because we vary so much in our responses to exercise and ability to recover. In fitness, as in diet, individuality must be taken into account. However, guidelines have emerged, and recently been refined, which provide a starting point for launching ourselves on a lifetime of fitness and good health.

Official exercise recommendations have recently changed

Until recently, government organizations had recommended 150  minutes of moderate exercise per week, preferably spread out evenly over five days. Moderate exercise could be walking at a pace that allows an individual to carry on a conversation, but intense enough to elevate heart and respiratory rates and cause perspiration. Those guidelines suggested that more intense exercise, at a higher heart rate, could be substituted for some or all of the moderate exercise, with additional fitness benefits. Under those guidelines, 75 minutes of intense exercise, like running or swimming laps, carried the same overall benefits as 150 minutes of moderate exercise.[1]

However, considerable confusion attended those guidelines. There was no certainty that the best possible results occurred at 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense exercise. Could additional time provide further benefits, and if so, at what level did the law of diminishing returns make further efforts pointless? Were there unacceptable risks for those exercising substantially more?

Research studies on exercise

Data from several large exercise surveys have been pooled in one study that examined more than 650,000 mostly middle-aged adults; death records revealed individuals who did not exercise had the highest death rates. Even a minimal amount of exercise, though well below the recommended 150 minutes weekly, had some protective effect: death rates were 20% less for this group.

For individuals meeting the 150-minute standard, death rates were an impressive 31% lower when compared with the non-exercising group. As individuals engaging in more exercise were examined, the 14-year death rate continued to improve further, eventually plateauing at 450 minutes of moderate activity per week, peaking at a rate 39% less than the inactive group![2]

Some researchers had expressed concern that large amounts of more intense exercise could be harmful, but a study reported in JAMA in June 2015 casts doubt on this. The study examined the exercise habits of more than 200,000 middle-aged and older adults and found an inverse dose-dependent relationship between proportion of intense exercise and death rates from all causes. Those engaging in the most intense exercise were less likely to die during the eight years data were compiled.[3[

What are the recommended exercise guidelines?

 Based on these findings and other studies of human activity and its relationship to health and longevity, we can positively recommend:

  • Sitting should be minimized.
  • Try to walk as much as possible. One hour daily would not be excessive.
  • Add brisk hill walks and running to maximize benefits. Be sure your intense exercise constitutes at least 30% of total exercise time.
  • Make some of your intense exercise metabolic resistance training like complexes with dumbbells, sandbags, and kettlebells.
  • Move every day and try to engage in intense exercise four times per week about 45 minutes each time.

Get started today, persist, and live long, live well.


CATEGORIES: Health, Working Out, Exercise, Research Study, Health Benefits, Fitness Plan, Recommendations