- Get Fit
- 10 Days ago
How much exercise is really enough?
The Old Guidelines
Back in 2001 the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) along with the American Heart Association (AHA) only recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week (or 30 minutes, 5 days a week). Though they admitted that 200 to 300 minutes a week was probably necessary for long-term weight loss.
They knew back in 2001, just as I knew and you know, too (even if you wish it weren’t true) that 150 minutes of exercise a week is just not enough if you want to lose weight. I think the reason they didn’t publish more realistic guidelines back then is that they didn’t think you could take it. I think they figured if they could just get you moving a little, it was better than nothing. But it's being a long time now and most of our population is overweight or obese now. So its high time we’ve GOT to get moving!
So How Much Exercise Is Really Enough?
That depends on your goals. Do you want to lose weight? Control blood pressure? Blood sugar? Lower cholesterol? Reduce stress? Improve depression?
Do you want to get fit? Play a sport? Climb a mountain? Have more energy? Build stamina? Get stronger? Breakthrough your own barriers and limitations?
My Prescription for Exercise
The problem for many of us is not the lack of willpower, its lack of time. We Americans are as overworked as we are under-exercised. Yet in spite of our long work hours, most of us still manage to find a lot more than four hours (240 minutes) each week to spend in front of the TV or computer – motionless – and often snacking.
I believe in a concept called “the golden hour”. Whatever your life, your schedule, or your family make-up you need and deserve one hour every single day that belongs completely to you and your body. Building an hour into your schedule every single day to exercise will pay bigger dividends and bring greater happiness over time than any other activity. I know, I know – life happens – blut if you have a “golden hour” in your day every day, you can still get your 240 to 300 minutes a week even if a couple of days throw you off course.
What Kind of Exercise?
It does not matter. It can be anything – but it must be in addition to your normal life activities. For the health of your heart (which is a muscle, don’t forget) and for weight loss aerobic activities are best. Walking, biking, swimming, and running are all aerobic activities. These activities should be performed at your target heart rate:
Your Target Heart Rate Range for Exercise = 220 minus your age times 60% and times 80%
You want to exercise at heart rates that are between 60% and 80% of 220 minus your age. Every minute you spend at your target heart rate strengthens your heart and burns calories, cholesterol, blood sugar, and fat. When you can sustain your target heart rate for an hour you will begin to experience the pleasures of being fit. To maintain your fitness you must constantly challenge your own capacity and endurance.
[Note: Do not begin a vigorous exercise program without checking with your health professional first, particularly if you have not been active in the past.]
Once you have your aerobic activity going, add some weight work 3 days a week. In addition, find a stretching activity you like – yoga is my favorite – or Pilates, Tai Chi, martial arts, whatever trips your tune.
As you begin to incorporate these activities into your life you will begin to enjoy the body with which you have been blessed. It will no longer feel like an adversary – it will become a source of strength.