Exercise and Fitness Tips to Improve Your Health
Get answers to your questions about exercise, and tips for getting the most from your workouts.
Q. How much exercise should I do?
In addition to the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine’s
recommendation of 60 minutes of daily exercise to prevent weight gain, there
are two other major U.S. guidelines for how much physical activity you
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a five- to 10-minute
warm-up and then 30 to 45 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (such as
swimming, biking, walking, dancing, or jogging) three to five times a week,
with a stretch and cool down period in the last five to 10 minutes. The ACSM
also recommends weight training: at least one set (eight to 12 repetitions)
each of eight to 10 different exercises, targeting the body's major muscle
- The surgeon general recommends accumulating 30 minutes of
moderate-intensity activity (hard enough to leave you feeling "warm and
slightly out of breath") on most, if not all, days of the week. You can do
it in two bouts of 15 minutes, three bouts of 10 minutes, or one bout of 30
minutes. This recommendation emphasizes incorporating activity into your daily
life -- walking instead of taking the bus, parking your car farther from the
mall and walking across the parking lot, taking stairs instead of the elevator,
and washing your car by hand.
Q. I don't have time to exercise. I hate exercise. 60 minutes a day?
The 60-minute suggestion is based on the National Academy of Science's
recommendation for people who are trying to prevent weight gain, or keep
themselves from regaining after weight loss -- not for people
who are trying to increase or maintain their cardio-respiratory fitness or
health. There's plenty of research to show that 30 minutes of physical activity
a day will help you gain lots of health and fitness benefits.
Both guidelines will help improve your health and fitness. Following the
more vigorous ACSM recommendation will make you more aerobically fit, and its
strength-training component will make you stronger and more toned. The Surgeon
General guideline, meanwhile, may be easier to fit into your lifestyle -- not
replacing the ACSM guideline, but complementing it.
If you already exercise vigorously at the gym several times a week, there's
no reason to quit. But if the ACSM recommendation is too much for you, the
Surgeon General's report offers you an alternative.
The most important thing is that you do something.