Medical studies and experts recommend that we get some amount of moderate exercise every week. But what exactly is moderate exercise? How can we tell if the exercise we incorporate into our routines is enough?
Everyone is different, that goes without saying. So exercise guidelines are just that – guidelines. They are not set rules, but something that can be used as a marker. Do you train for your health? For the contest? To improve your appearance? Just for fun? All of these play a role in the type of exercise, how often, and for how long.
150 minutes a week
The most common recommendation for healthy adults to stay fit and healthy is 150 minutes of moderate activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity) per week. Of course, more is better, and the Mayo Clinic says you will get even more health benefits if you double the total time. However, these minutes should be spread over a week rather than one or two intense weekly sessions.
Moderate activity is enough exercise to know you're exercising, but you don't exhaust yourself – that leads to vigorous activity. How you feel during training naturally also depends on how fit you are. What can be a moderate run for one person can be a strenuous hike for another. So it's pretty subjective.
Determine your heart rate
Your heart rate can also tell you how hard you are exercising. The higher it is during your activity, the harder your body works. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with moderately vigorous physical activity should have an age-related target heart rate target.
To find out, first determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. A 35 year old would have a maximum heart rate of 185 beats per minute (bpm), while a 70 year old would have a maximum rate of 150 beats per minute.
Once you hit that maximum BPM, your target rate will be between 64% and 76% of it. The easiest way to calculate this is to take the max rate and multiply by 0.64 (for the 64%). Then multiply the maximum rate by 0.76 (for the 76%). The 35-year-old would have a moderate target rate for training intensity of between 118 and 140 beats per minute. The 70-year-old's target rate is between 96 and 114 beats per minute.
If you prefer a higher intensity, your target range should be between 77% and 93% of your maximum BPM. That means you take your max number and multiply by 0.77 and 0.93.
Examples of moderate intensity exercises
Considering that everyone's perception of high intensity exercise can be different, here are some common activities that are considered moderately intense:
- Brisk walks
- Heavier housework (washing windows, vacuuming)
- Mow the lawn
- Play double tennis
- Cycling less than 10 miles per hour
- Golfing (walking between holes)
- To dance
You should be breathing harder, but not out of breath. If you are exercising with a partner you should be able to have a conversation.
Weight lifting also counts
While lifting weights doesn't count as an aerobic activity that gets your heart racing, it is an important part of a good exercise program. Weight training will help you with your aerobic activity, but it will also help strengthen your bones. Strong legs can also help you maintain balance. But don't let the term "weightlifting" put you off. Weight training can include dumbbells, barbells, or machines, but you can also use resistance bands or your own body weight to strengthen your muscles.
Ask for help
If you've never participated in an exercise program before, the first thing to do is speak to your doctor or nurse, especially if you have a chronic illness or condition. Even people with significant disabilities can find a way to get their bodies moving, but you need to be sure of what you can safely do.
Once cleared, you should seek out a trainer or sports therapist to develop a program that not only meets your needs, but actually gets it done. There are several websites, blogs, and YouTube videos showing different exercises. Note that it is very easy to get some exercises wrong, which can lead to injury.
No time to train?
Finding time to incorporate exercise into our daily lives is not always easy, but there are options. Here are some tips:
- Start small. Even 5 to 10 minutes of exercise can make a difference
- Cycle with your children
- If you still have kids in strollers, buy a jogging stroller and earn miles that way
- Dance with your children or alone in the house
- Take a daily walk with a friend or neighbor
- Use the stairs at work, not just when you get there but also during breaks and lunch
- Hop off the bus or subway a few blocks from work or home and walk the rest of the way
- Wake up half an hour early to do a workout session
- Exercise while watching your favorite show or listening to a podcast or audiobook