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How Much Exercise do You Really Need?

Regular exercise is extremely important for overall health and wellness. Physical activity is essential for your heart and bone health, mood and mental health, sleep, and even energy. But these benefits only come with true exercise, right? Like, the kinds of workouts that take you at least one hour to complete, or the really challenging difficult group fitness classes? That's actually a complete myth. Small bouts of exercise (we're talking minutes) can make a huge difference in your health and wellness. Even better news, the majority of exercise doesn't even have to be crazy intense in order to make a difference.

So, what's the bare minimum of exercise required to maintain decent health and wellness? According to the American Heart Association and other national health organizations like the CDC, the average adult needs at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. An amount that studies have found only 1 in 5 adults manage. In addition to the 150 minutes, it's important to include some strength training at least 2 days per week.

If you're exercising to improve your weight loss results, keep in mind that hitting the bare minimum of 150 minutes may not make a huge difference- especially if you haven't made some changes to your nutrition habits. Also, more intense workouts may be required. In other words, shorter (but more intense) workouts have shown to help accelerate weight loss more than just light or moderate workouts.

It can be difficult to gauge how hard you're actually working when exercising. A good rule of thumb is to implement the Talk Test. According to the CDC, the Talk Test allows you to gauge a moderate level of exercise effort if you can talk, but not sing, while exercising. Some examples include a brisk walk, pool classes, a gentle bike ride, doubles tennis, ballroom dancing, and gardening.

Further along on the exercise spectrum is intense exercise. Intense exercise gets your heart pumping harder than moderate-intensity movement. You should not be able to string a sentence together because your breathing will be more labored. According to the CDC, intense workouts might include race walking, jogging or running, swimming laps, singles tennis, dance workout classes, biking fast on a route that includes hills, jumping rope, and/or hiking.

It's important to remember that 150 minutes of physical activity is a minimum and a guideline. It's important for you to move as much as possible throughout your day (ideally more than just 150 minutes per week). Hitting 150 minutes of physical activity every week will not negate the harmful side effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Take walk breaks at work (or while working from home) and make activities like parking further away from stores when shopping regular habits.

The takeaway here is to fit in exercise where you can and know that every minute can make a difference to your overall health and wellness. Never feel like in order to make progress you need to make unrealistic commitments to long workouts or exercise that hurts you. And, don’t forget about your recovery days. Just like your body needs exercise, it also craves rest too. Make sure you’re getting the 7 to 8 hours of sleep recommended for adults, and take time off from structured workouts during the week. You can try an active recovery day, which is planned stretching, a light yoga class, or even a gentle walk or bike ride. Your body and mind will thank you!

Need some workouts ideas? SAFFP has over 450+ options for you to choose from thanks to our partner, Fitness on Demand, and our amazing SAFFP instructors! Find a live or virtual class that aligns with your goals, time constraints, and your workout preferences! Visit the St. Andrew's Family Fitness website for more information.

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