How Much Physical Activity Should You Do to Stay Healthy?

A lot of diet and exercise advice is geared towards fitness freaks and weight loss wishers, but what about your average Joe (or Jo) who just wants to look after their wellbeing? Let’s say you’re a working-age adult (19-64), how much physical activity do you need to do in order to keep healthy?


Whether you want to maintain or improve your wellness, you need to do two types of exercise on a weekly basis; aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. How much you need to do depends on your age, so don’t follow these guidelines if you’re under the age of 19 or over 65. For the rest of you, your fitness regime should incorporate at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity, which means taking up activities like fast walking or cycling. On two or more days a week, you also need to perform muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (i.e. your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Alternately, you could swap the 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, such as running or tennis, or you could mix it up! You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same day or on different days as your aerobic activity, just choose whatever is best for you.


A great way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to break it down into manageable chunks of 30 minutes on 5 days a week. If you’re aiming for moderate-intensity activity, you know you’re on the right track if you breathe faster, feel warmer and have an elevated heart rate. You should be able to talk, but not sing the words to a song. Good examples of activities to choose from include walking fast, water aerobics, riding your bike on level ground or with a few hills, playing doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball and basketball.


When it comes to vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, your options are jogging, running, swimming fast, riding your bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, using a skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics and martial arts. To determine whether or not you’re at the right level of intensity, check your speaking ability. You shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Moreover, you should be breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate should have gone up quite a bit. Generally, you’ll get the same health benefits from 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity as you would from 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.


You count muscle-strengthening exercises in repetitions and set, with a repetition being one complete movement of an activity (like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up) and a set being a group of repetitions. On your two days of muscle-strengthening workouts, you should aim to complete eight to 12 repetitions in each set. While one set of each muscle-strengthening activity is a worthy goal, you’ll get even more benefits if you do two or even three sets. However, you may have to build up to this if you’re just starting out. The way to get the health benefits from muscle-strengthening activities is to do them to the point where you struggle to complete another repetition. You can do muscle-strengthening exercises at home or in the gym. This might mean lifting weights, working with resistance bands, yoga, heavy gardening like digging and shoveling, or doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups and sit-ups.

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