Column: How much physical activity do you need?
Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health: aerobic and muscle-strengthening.
For adequate health benefits, adults need at least two hours and
30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, in addition to muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
Another alternative is one hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week, along with the two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities to work all major muscle groups.
Yet another alternative is an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, plus the muscle-strengthening activities.
While 150 minutes each week may sound like a lot of time to some people, you don't have to do it all at once. Not only is it best to spread your activity out during the week, but you can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day - as long as you're doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.
For example, try going for a 10-minute brisk walk three times a day, five days a week. This will give you a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
For even greater health benefits, says the CDC, adults can increase their activity to five hours (300 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
No matter which option you might choose, the muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week should also be included in your exercise plan.
For those muscle-strengthening activities, you may want to try one of the following: lifting weights, working with resistance bands, push-ups, sit-ups or even heavy gardening if it involves digging or shoveling.
Finally, it is important that you check with your physician or other healthcare provider before you start any exercise program.