It's hard to get consistent with exercise even after knowing the magic it does. You often go for a walk or visit the gym 1–2 times a week, but now you are serious about adding a workout to your routine. I got you, man; you need a goal. You need to figure out how much exercise is enough for you.
To answer your question, the health and social care department published UK chief medical officers' physical activity guidelines report. Curious? Continue reading to know what the report says and what you need to do if you miss your goal and much more.
How Does Exercise Benefit Your Body?
By definition, it is any movement that warms up your muscles and burns off excess calories. And let me tell you, EXERCISE IS A MIRACLE CURE. Don't believe me? Please continue reading to figure it out yourself.
1. Prevent chronic diseases
Despite knowing exercise is good for your wellness, you might get shocked to know it can protect you from at least 25 deadly ailments and improve your lifespan. Below are some chronic conditions that can be prevented from regular workouts.
● Diabetes Type 2
Research has shown routine physical activity is associated with increased insulin sensitivity that prevents or delays type 2 diabetes.
● Cardiovascular Diseases
If you ask me to mention the biggest award of doing regular exercise, I would say it's the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk factors. For instance, an aerobic workout daily can lower systolic blood pressure by 5-7mmHg. Further, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises can raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, thus preventing the risk of stroke. Not only does physical activity lowers the risk for heart diseases, but it also promotes heart health in patients with cardiovascular complications.
Recent evidence suggests regular exercise can lower cancer risk at different body sites, including the colon, gallbladder, pancreas, thyroid gland, etc.
2. Improves muscle and bone health
Being physically active enables you to strengthen your muscles and bones. In fact, new studies suggest that it promotes bone health and improves weight status in children under 3-5 years. Also, regular workouts are equally beneficial for us as we get older. When you exercise daily, your bones get stronger by building new cells. Furthermore, it improves balance and coordination, thus preventing bone fractures from falls.
3. Promotes better sleep
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, exercise can be the best cure. Not only does it enhance the quality of sleep, but it also decreases sleep latency, which is the time required to fall asleep. Research conducted over four months concluded that resistance training and stretching exercise could improve sleep in chronic insomnia patients.
4. Boosts cognitive function
Physical activity boosts brain health and improves cognitive function in youth aged 6-13. It improves circulation and blood flow to the different brain parts, thus reducing inflammation. Also, it induces the production of a hormone that is responsible for the growth of brain cells. A research study published in 2014 suggests exercise targets the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory and learning, thus improving mental function. Another great thing about being physically active is that it makes you relax; it lowers anxiety and depression by stimulating the release of mood boosters (serotonin).
5. Helps weight loss
Sedentary lifestyle adds obesity to your life, one of the leading causes of many chronic illnesses. Regular workout is a perfect strategy to fight against weight gain and obesity. It enhances your body's metabolism and burns excess calories, thus helping weight loss. Scientific research supports the evidence that resistance training helps weight loss while maintaining muscle mass when combined with aerobic activity.
6. Improve skin health
Exercise boosts blood circulation in different body parts, including skin, which delays the signs of aging. Additionally, a moderate-intensity workout stimulates your body to produce antioxidants. These antioxidants work against free radicals and oxidative stress to protect your skin from damage.
7. Reduces pain
If you are suffering from any condition causing chronic pain, exercise may be the cheapest way to lessen it. Several recent studies suggest workouts can relieve pain associated with various conditions like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain, etc. Furthermore, regular training can help build tolerance and lower pain perception.
8. Saves health care costs
As you have already read, routine exercise can save you from many medical conditions. Whereas unfit people are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than active people. It means your odds of ending up in an emergency room and buying medicines are less. In the long run, physical fitness positively impacts the economy by reducing healthcare costs.
How Many Minutes Should You Exercise a Day?
Now you are convinced to add work out to your daily life, let's talk about how much is enough. Below are the standards for people under different groups according to UK chief medical officers' physical activity guidelines.
1. Older adults
People aged 65 years or older must do moderate intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. And if they are already physically active, they can do vigorous intensity work out for 75 minutes a week or go for a combination of moderate and intense exercises.
● As per the recommendations, older adults should engage in physical activity to enjoy a sense of mental, social, and physical wellbeing.
● Old age people should exercise to maintain balance, strength, and muscle mass for at least two days a week. Weigh-bearing workouts are also best for the elderly to improve bone health.
● The fitness goal for people of this age should aim at breaking habits of prolonged periods of inactivity with mild physical activity. This will benefit their health in the long run.
aged 19-64 should engage in moderate intensity workout (brisk walking) for 150 minutes a week or vigorous activity (running) for 75 minutes per week. They can also go for a short duration of intense activity such as sprinting or opt for a combination of the three mentioned.
● These guidelines encourage adults to be active daily. People of this age group should do exercises that develop strength in major muscle groups, such as gardening, weight lifting, and resistance exercises. Adults should participate in such activities for at least two days a week.
● Whenever feasible, adults should try to break the prolonged duration of inactivity with mild physical activity. Also, they should adopt a lifestyle that minimizes sedentary behavior.
3. Children and young people
People under 5-18 years old should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity activities for at least 60 minutes a day. It includes any daily movement such as after-school activities, sports, travel, etc.
● Young people and children should participate in diverse types of activities every day to strengthen and maintain their bones and muscles.
● Just like other age groups, people under this category should minimize their time spent being inactive and replace it with any physical activity, mild or moderate.
4. Children under 5 years
This report further split the category into three age groups: infant (less than 1 year), toddler (1-2 years), and preschoolers (3-4 years). So, let's see what recommendations we have in store for them.
Babies less than one year should be engaged in physical activities, like crawling, many times a day. For infants that are not mobile yet, their parents should engage them in tummy time for at least 30 minutes daily.
Other movements, like pushing, pulling, and rolling over, are also encouraged. Remember, the more the action is spread through the day in little chunks, the better it is.
Parents should make their toddlers participate in various types and intensities of exercises for at least 180 minutes a day. The more the activity, the better the benefits. Also, it's best to spread the 3-hour activity in various slots throughout the day.
The same goes for preschoolers. They are also required to engage in various activities, including outdoor play, for a minimum of three hours a day.
5. Women who are pregnant or suffering from postpartum
Physical activity is safe for pregnant ladies and doesn't negatively affect postpartum breastfeeding. However, previously inactive ladies should not go for vigorous activities.
In fact, they should start getting active gradually. Aim for moderate intensity activity for at least 150 minutes a week through pregnancy.
Seems Too Much? Just Move More and Site Less
Do these guidelines and numbers seem too much to you? Don't worry; we have got the situation under control. Although the above recommendations state a specific volume of physical activity, it doesn't mean you can't get benefited if you are unable to achieve these levels.
These guidelines clarify that you can take advantage of even a little activity. The simple formula is to sit less and move! The stated benefits can be achieved both above and below threshold recommendations. The general rule of thumb is the more you get physically active, the more you enjoy health benefits.
Different Types of Exercises
If you are still with me, you already know that just moving more impacts your health positively. But it's also true that getting involved in different forms of physical activity will work on your body's parts. The research concludes the importance of getting all 4 kinds of exercises.
1. Cardiovascular exercise
Cardiovascular workout, also called aerobic exercise, enhances cardiorespiratory fitness by getting your heart pump harder and increasing your breathing rate. It improves blood circulation in different body parts, thus delivering more oxygen to various organs. It also helps strengthen the muscles of vital organs, including the heart and lungs.
On top of the above benefits, it helps you sleep better and reduces the risk of heart disease and various other ailments. And the best thing about this kind of activity is you can do it at home, using a jump rope, treadmill or just walking. See, it's that easy. You don't even need to go to the gym, so add aerobic activity to your life from today!
Click to find out more on jump rope vs. treadmill
As the name indicates, this activity helps you strengthen your muscles. Our muscle mass decreases as we age, so it's crucial to bring that back through exercise. It enables you to perform your daily tasks more efficiently, e.g., carrying groceries, walking up and down the stairs, etc. Furthermore, it lowers blood pressure and stimulates bone growth. It also helps decrease joint pains and supports weight management. Most easy-to-do strength training exercises include pushups, lunges, and squats.
The organs that help us maintain balance (inner ear, leg muscle, and joints) get weaker when we age. But exercise can help reverse it through balance, making you steadier and preventing falls. Common balance exercises include tai chi, standing on one foot, etc.
You may have noticed that older people often complain of muscle cramps, joint pain, and strains. It's because our muscle shortens when we age, which results in loss of flexibility. But our muscles tend to become longer when we do regular exercise like stretching. Consequently, it results in better flexibility and improved range of motion.
1. How much exercise is enough for weight loss?
Exercise manages weight and lowers adiposity as it expends energy. The scientific literature suggests that physical activity for greater than 150 minutes and diet may help weight loss.
2. How much exercise a disabled person should do?
According to WHO guidelines, a disabled person should reduce his time spent being sedentary as much as possible by replacing it with any kind of physical activity. Also, it states disabled persons should either do moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 150-300 minutes, do vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for 75-150 minutes, or opt for a combination of both.
3. What is the difference between moderate and vigorous intensity work out?
Moderate intensity exercise requires an average amount of energy to do the workout. It noticeably increases your breathing and heart rate. Whereas vigorous intensity exercises require a high amount of energy and cause a rapid and significant increase in heart and breathing rate.
4. What is the cheap way of doing exercise at home?
You don't need to spend your entire wealth to get fit, buy expensive machinery, or pay gym fees. You can opt for squats, pushups, or even crunches. Also, you can do fine by working out on some budget-friendly equipment. For instance, you would be surprised to know some treadmills under 1000$ are as reliable and efficient as expensive ones.
In this article, we highlighted the benefits of exercise in our daily life and how exercise and heart health are related. We also reviewed the UK medical chief officer's physical activity guidelines. Although these standards state a minimum duration for work out, it also stresses getting more active irrespective of achieving mentioned threshold. According to the report, the more you get active, the healthier it gets regardless of duration. So, if you can't reach these levels, don't worry; follow the principle, MOVE MORE, SIT LESS, to enjoy the health benefits.
1. Gibson‐Moore, H. (2019). UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines 2019: What’s new and how can we get people more active? Nutrition Bulletin, 44(4), 320–328
2. Warburton, D. E., & Bredin, S. S. (2021). Cardiovascular health benefits of physical activity: Time to focus on strengths. Cahiers de Nutrition et de Diététique, 56(1), 40–50