How much exercise is enough?
The answer might be encouraging or disheartening depending on where you stand. The all-around good news is that the exercise guidelines are achievable with the right attitude and preparation.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends
• ≥30 minutes a day, ≥5 days a week of moderate intensity exercise, OR
• ≥20 minutes a day, ≥3 days a week of vigorous intensity exercise
What is aerobic exercise?
Aerobic, or cardiovascular exercise is “regular, purposeful exercise that involves major muscle groups and is continuous and rhythmic in nature.” This means it is physical activity for the sake of physical activity (not as part of your work or daily duties) and involves a lot of limbs doing the same movement over and over again. Think running, cycling, swimming, or a derivative of these sports.
How do you know if you have the right intensity?
There is always the technology route – heart rate, power, VO2, METs – but the easiest way is to monitor your breathing. Moderate exercise makes you huff and puff, but you are still able to hold a conversation. Vigorous exercise makes you huff and puff more so you can only get out short sentences.
Can I mix and match?
Sure! You can maintain or change the mode, duration, or intensity of any exercise you do. This is important if you’re returning from injury, illness or are learning a new skill, so it’s alright to have easy days and hard days. You can also accrue time in blocks of 10 minutes; a 10 minute walk before work, at lunchtime and after work has your 30 minutes covered for that day.
Do I really have to do 10,000 steps?
No. Walking might not be feasible for you for a number of reasons: you have a desk job, you can’t walk or run to work, you have a lower limb injury that prevents you from walking long distances, you don’t like walking. A few studies have worked out that approximately 7000 is all you need. If you’re not near 7000 steps, the recommendations are to aim to increase your step count by 2000 steps a day. Still, 2000 is a long way, so it may be easier for you to aim to consistently add a smaller amount each week e.g. +100 steps every 7 days.
But I still don’t want to do that many steps.
That’s ok. Swimming or cycling won’t increase your step count, but they still count as cardiovascular exercise. You may wish to combine your step count with the amount of time spent exercising, as there are a few variables that aren’t captured in your final number.
How do I start?
Take stock of what you’re currently doing and where you want to be. Set regular achievable milestones to help you visualise how close you are to your main goal. Then set up a way of monitoring your progress and staying accountable. You might have a fitness tracker program on your phone, a diary on the fridge and a mate who will always know if you skipped a day. Then, it’s game time. Building habits is hard, so don’t feel demoralised by one or even a few missed targets. Keep aiming for that next milestone.
If you’ve had an injury or a chronic illness, or would like to develop a plan to find your 30 minutes a day, call our Exercise Physiologists.
 Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., … & Swain, D. P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 43(7), 1334-1359.