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Fitness & Exercise

How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Even a little exercise may bring you big health benefits.
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Strength and conditioning coach Jim Massaro agrees.

"This is the way I personally work out -- and it's how I train others," says Massaro, founder of the Advanced Personal Training Center in Nyack, N.Y. "It works for beginners and, by increasing the intensity of what you do in those short increments, it can also work for advanced fitness training."

That said, some fitness experts warn that short workouts can have a downside.

"The bad part about short workouts is that they send the message that you can skimp on your health -- that less is more, that you don't have to invest in yourself to be healthy -- and that's the wrong message," says Mike Ryan, a personal trainer and member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Board.

While Ryan says brief bouts of exercise are a good way to get into the fitness mindset, he believes the eventual goal should be to do longer workouts. "Whatever you think you can accomplish with short workouts, you can accomplish that much more with longer workouts," he says.

Exercise: How Much Is the Bare Minimum?

While incorporating more exercise into our lives is a worthwhile goal, for many of us, just getting up off the couch is a big step toward better health.

So how much exercise do you really need? Most of the studies show that 5 minutes of continuous movement repeated during the day is about the bare minimum to have any effect, and fitness experts believe 10 minutes is more realistic.

"If 3 minutes is all you can do, if 2 minutes is all you can do, it's all better than nothing -- but you should be working up to a goal of at least 5 continuous minutes, and 10 is even better," says Shina.

It's important to make the most of those few minutes, she says. "You should come away from your 2 minutes or your 5 minutes or your 10 minutes of exercise feeling as if you have accomplished something," she says. "There is a certain amount of pushing your body that has to take place, even if it's just for 5 minutes."

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