article

Modified on

How Much Exercise Do You Need in a Day?

Take the quiz

It’s helpful to think of a weight loss journey as a balancing act. Too much or too little of any one component can make you stumble. A successful and sustainable weight loss program requires correctly balancing biological, psychological and social contributors to weight gain. Specific emphasis should be given to nutrition, sleep schedule, and exercise routine.

That’s a lot to balance.

For many people, the exercise component of this ratio is the most difficult to figure out. While health professionals recommend approximately 150 minutes per week at a minimum, there are many factors to consider to settle on the right amount for your specific needs. 

Keep reading to learn more.

Daily Exercise Recommendations

First, let’s take a closer look at what exactly is meant by the CDC’s 150 minutes per week guidelines. Specifically, they suggest:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week

  • More vigorous activity can be lower—75 minutes per week

  • A combination of moderate and vigorous activity is fine

  • Up to 300 minutes of moderate activity per week for more benefits

  • At least two strength training sessions per week

Now, we’ll break down the physical activity guidelines in a little more detail to help you better understand what each type of exercise entails.

Moderate Aerobic Exercise

What is moderate aerobic exercise (or cardiovascular exercise)? Think of anything that gets your heart rate up and causes you to break a sweat. You should be able to achieve the maximum benefits from moderate aerobic exercise. Some examples of activities include:

  • Walking briskly

  • Swimming at a leisurely pace

  • Mowing the lawn

  • Riding a bike 

  • Hiking

  • Playing doubles tennis

  • Water aerobics

If you’re abiding by the minimum CDC recommendations, you’d need to do 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per day five times per week. What are the benefits of cardiovascular exercise? There are tons, actually, but the most well-known include lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Vigorous Aerobic Exercise

When you step up the intensity of your moderate aerobic session to more vigorous activities, you’ll find it difficult to speak more than a few words. Your heart rate will increase, and your breathing will be more labored. Vigorous exercise examples include

  • Running

  • Riding a bike on hilly terrain

  • Swimming laps quickly

  • Playing basketball

  • Singles tennis

  • Interval workouts

To prevent injury, you should begin with moderate-intensity exercise and add more vigorous sessions slowly. Because it’s more difficult, the CDC recommends 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.

Strength Training

Building strength is critical to weight loss as well. While strength training doesn’t burn as many calories as aerobic activities, the muscles you build as you get stronger will boost your metabolism. This means that the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. Thus, you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.

At a minimum, you should do exercises that strengthen all of your major muscle groups twice per week. These include:

  • Hips

  • Legs

  • Back

  • Core

  • Chest

  • Arms

  • Shoulders

You can build strength by using weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight. You should aim for 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise you perform to achieve maximum benefits. Activities such as yoga and pilates will also help you get stronger. You don’t even have to go to the gym as long as you figure out ways to work out at home.

Tips for Putting it All Together

Now that you know how much exercise you need, we have some tips for meeting your physical activity goals:

  • Spread it out – You don’t want to cram all 150 minutes into one day. Ideally, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week. Some people like to break their exercise sessions into smaller chunks, such as two 15 minute sessions per day.

  • Start slowly – Don’t expect to go from little activity to a marathon runner overnight. Starting with easier exercises and giving your body time to adapt is the best way to achieve long-term success and avoid injury.

  • Challenge yourself – That being said, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. For example, once you’re comfortable with 150 minutes per week, try pushing it to 200 minutes per week for an additional boost.

  • Mix it up – Doing the same thing all the time can slow your weight loss progress. When you add different types of exercise and intensity levels, you burn more calories and keep your workouts interesting.

Truthfully, the best exercise plan for you is one that you’ll do most consistently. However, factors such as age, physical condition, and personal goals will play a part in your plan design.

How Much Exercise Do I Need Daily?

Experts agree that the minimum target for moderate aerobic exercise is 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day. However, the ideal amount and intensity of exercise for you are influenced by your:

Age

As you age, your metabolism slows down. Therefore, you’ll need to incorporate more physical activity into your day in your fifties to burn the same amount of calories you burned when you were in your twenties. 

Physical Condition

Your overall physical condition will also determine how much daily exercise you need. If you’re just beginning your weight loss journey, you might not be able to incorporate as much physical activity into your day until your health improves.

Body Composition

The heavier your body, the more calories you’ll burn through exercise. As you lose weight, you’ll have to exercise more frequently or intensely to achieve the same level of caloric burn. This is one of the reasons why strength training is so important—it can help you build muscle to maintain a higher level of calorie-burning even as your weight decreases.

Goals

Finally, you need to consider your goals. Do you want to exercise strictly to lose weight or maintain weight loss? Or do you have another goal in mind, such as running a 5k or competing in a long-distance bike race?

Setting specific goals can make exercise more enjoyable and encourage you to increase the intensity as you get more fit. It can turn exercise into something you want to do to achieve a result rather than something you have to do.

Your Perfect Balance

When you take the above factors into account, where do you fit? Are you looking to do the minimum for health and weight maintenance? Or are you looking to lose weight and work toward a fitness goal? Answering all of these questions helps you figure out how to create a workout plan.

If you want to set more intense weight loss goals, you may have to push yourself beyond the minimum exercise suggestions. Instead of stopping at 150 minutes, you should strive for 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (along with strengthening sessions). This means one hour per day, five days per week. 

You can break up your workouts into shorter sessions to fit your schedule. A sample week might look like this:

  • Monday: 30-minute morning walk, 30-minute evening bike ride

  • Tuesday: 60-minute morning hike, 20-minute evening strength training session

  • Wednesday: 45-minute morning swim, 15-minute evening walk

  • Thursday: 30-minute strength training session

  • Friday: 60-minute morning bike ride

  • Saturday: 60-minute morning hike

  • Sunday: Rest

Shorter bursts of movement are perfectly fine—the key is to find what works best for you. And, as you become more fit over time, you can incorporate more vigorous exercise into your routine.

How Much Exercise is Too Much?

It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, even exercise. Exercising too much too quickly can lead to injuries and burnout. This can actually stall your weight loss progress instead of aiding it.

Overtraining Indicators

Luckily, our bodies are adept at telling us when something is off. There are signals you can look for if you think you might be exercising more than is healthy for your body. These include:

  • Mood swings 

  • Heavy legs during exercise 

  • Sore muscles that linger long after they should

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Trouble sleeping even though you’re tired

  • Less motivation to workout or do other things you enjoy

  • Getting sick more frequently than usual

If you’ve been ramping up your exercise routine and you’re experiencing any of these signs, it might be time to take a step back and give your body time to adjust.

Balance the Scales with Found

The key to success in weight loss is balance. You must eat, sleep, and exercise in the right proportions to get the results you want. Exercise is a tricky component because it means something different for everyone. Furthermore, your age, overall health, and goals contribute to the math that results in the perfect exercise program.

Sometimes your body just doesn’t respond the way it should, even when you’re balancing everything correctly. That’s why Found’s experts have developed tools to assist you when you’re struggling with weight loss. Our program can show you how to find your equilibrium and reach your weight loss goals.

If you need some assistance, take our quiz today and let Found help you find your footing.

Sources: 

CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

Mayo Clinic. How Much Should the Average Adult Exercise Every Day? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916

PubMed. Skeletal Muscle Metabolism Is a Major Determinant of Resting Energy Expenditure. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2243122/

NHS. Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults Aged 19 to 64. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/

Mayo Clinic. Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508

Health.gov. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf#page=59

Medline Plus. Are You Getting Too Much Exercise? https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000807.htm

Find out what path is right for you

Continue