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Your Exercise Routine: How Much Is Enough?

Experts explain why some people should try for 30 minutes of exercise a day, while others need up to 90 minutes.

Working in the Workouts

Here are some suggestions for becoming physically active:

  • Start by remembering that physical activity doesn't always mean the dreaded "e" word: exercise. "Encourage yourself to be physically active by doing things you actually enjoy," says Hall. "Make a list of things you like to do that are active, and find ways to fit them in."

  • Make it a group event. "Take a walk with your family, go for a walk with friends at lunch, take your kids to the park and play with them instead of sitting on the bench," says Hall.

  • Go for the tried and true. "Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park your car further away from the office," says Hall. "These are small ways to incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine that add up over the course of the day."

  • Find new things to do. Try swimming, hiking, water skiing, snow skiing -- something new and different. "There are so many things that are physically active that are fun, so make it a priority to do those things," says Hall. "It's good for your physical and mental well-being."

  • Find a support system, and reward yourself. Pate's recommendation for working the required amount of physical activity into your daily routine is to build a network of support. "People are more likely to succeed with adopting increased physical activity if they build good social support around the activity," says Pate. "Be active with a family member or a friend, and set up a reward system together so when you achieve something, like being active on 90% of the days you agree to, go to the movies or go out for a healthy dinner."

  • Start with 30. "I worry a lot about people misinterpreting the recommendations or being discouraged by the sense that they may need even more physical activity than they've been told before," says Pate. "My advice is to meet that 30-minute guideline and see if there is a problem with weight management. Lots of people who are not meeting that 30-minute guideline and work up to it will find that their weight will stabilize or they may lose weight."

From there, Pate explains that you can determine whether the 60- or 90-minute recommendation is right for you.

"If you meet the 30-minute guideline consistently for an extended period and gain weight anyway, you are one of the people who needs more than that to maintain energy balance," says Pate. "This all comes down to the individual, and how they act on the guidelines."

New Guidelines in 2010

The guidelines are updated every five years, as required by law. So until 2010 when a new set is announced, the 30-60-90-minute rule is in effect, and Americans need to find their threshold and work it in to their daily lives.

While a new set of guidelines might change that number -- for better or worse, depending on how you look at it -- the current goal is: "Balance energy and weight status," says Pate. "And, make it fun. Meet your goals in a way you enjoy."

Reviewed on July 30, 2009
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