How Much Physical Activity Should I Get?
The important thing about physical activity is that you do some. Depending on your current state of health, the amount and intensity recommended may vary a bit.
For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. That can be broken down to at least 30 minutes per day, five times a week. Or, you can shorten the amount of time by exercising more vigorously: at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, (which can be broken down into 25 minutes at least three days per week) or a combination of the two. Activities should be done in blocks of at least 10 minutes and throughout the week.
If you’re working on lowering your blood pressure and/or LDL cholesterol, the recommendation is a little different. Try to average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three or four times per week.
If you’re managing other serious or chronic conditions or if you have specific medical questions or concerns, talk with your medical team about the best physical activity plan for you.
Moderate vs. Vigorous
Any activity is better than no activity, but movement that raises your heart rate and challenges your muscles affords the most benefits. But how do you know how moderate or vigorous the activity you’re engaging in is?
Moderate activity means that your heart is beating faster. You can still carry on a conversation, but you’ll be breathing heavier. And you’ll notice that you’re starting to sweat.
According to the U.S. Department of Human Services 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, examples of moderate are: Walking at a brisk pace, riding a bike slower than 10 miles per hour, water aerobics, doubles tennis, ballroom dancing, general gardening.
Vigorous activity is higher intensity and feels more taxing: Your heart is probably beating much faster. Although you can carry on a conversation, you will find yourself pausing to take a breath.
Examples from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines include: Racewalking, running/jogging, singles tennis, swimming laps, biking 10 miles per hour or faster, jumping rope, heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing that increases the heart rate), hiking up a hill or with a heavy backpack.
Visit Heart.org to understand more about the differences in moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity and how to know what your intensity-level is while being physically active.