How much exercise do I really need?
Great question! I'm going to assume that if you clicked on this post, you already understand that exercise is important. It's not a "nice to do", it's a MUST DO. If you're here, you are not doubting that you NEED to exercise, but you're maybe wondering how much and how often. I'm glad you're here.
I want to keep this short and sweet because I know your time is valuable. The Government of Canada recommends that on average, we each NEED 150 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity OR 300 minutes of light-to-moderate intensity activity OR a combination of the two. I know that sounds vague and confusing, so I will break it down.
150 minutes per week vigorous intensity - this means roughly 2.5 hours TOTAL over the course of your week. Vigorous intensity means an activity that leaves you drenched in sweat and completely out of breath. For example, you could do 30 minutes of HIIT-style training, 5 days per week. (Side note: part of the reason HIIT training has become so popular is because it is efficient. You can get the same effectiveness in less time because you work REALLY hard for a short period of time).
OR, you can aim for:
300 minutes of light-to-moderate intensity activity - this means roughly 5 hours TOTAL over the course of your week. This is a lower intensity activity, such as walking, yoga, dance class (i.e. barre, ballet), jogging, swimming, skiing, etc. The activity matters less than HOW you do it. When doing it, you should be able to talk to a friend. You're not out of breath, and you will maybe break a light sweat.
I've given you two different scenarios here, but how do you know which one to pick? Do you combine them?
To clarify: you don't need BOTH. You don't need 2.5 hours of high intensity AND 5 hours of low intensity. You need EITHER, or a combination of the two.
This means you're looking at anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours a week of activity. This includes any activity that makes you sweat and gets you moving.
What type of Exercise?
As an instructor and personal trainer, I don't care WHAT this activity is. Where should you start? Pick something you like. If you don't know what you like, think of activities you enjoyed as a kid. For me, group fitness works really well because it's a similar environment to a dance studio, and I spent half of my childhood training in a studio!
If you played a competitive team sport, like volleyball, soccer, or basketball, you might like HIIT or circuit-based group workouts. If you did an individual sport like cross-country running or swimming, lace up your runners or hop in a pool. The options are endless, and one type of activity is not better than another. The best activity is the one you are actually going to do. I
f you try to force yourself into doing a workout you don't enjoy, I can promise you it's going to be a battle of your willpower, and you might win in the short run, but in the long run, you're not setting yourself up to win CONSISTENTLY.
** This doesn't mean you can't LEARN to like a new type of activity. There will always be a learning curve, and I have found many styles that I didn't think I would like at the outset that I eventually learned to. For example: running. ;)
What about if I have a specific fitness goal in mind?
Anywhere from 2.5-5 hours a week is the guideline for MAINTENANCE. This means the average person should move this much every week to maintain good health and reap the benefits, such as better sleep, improved focus, and more energy. This is a guideline for recreation & leisure, which is the area I specialize in. I teach for the average person to reap benefits of physical activity. I am not a high-performance coach that will measure your individualized progress over a series of weeks, months, or years.
If you're training for PERFORMANCE, you will need to do more than 2.5-5 hours of exercise. If you have a specific goal you want to hit or if you're a high-performance athlete, you're likely following an individualized training plan.
Again, neither is right or wrong, and I believe that there is more work to be done is the recreational segment. It's what I'm most passionate about. Right now, less than 25% of people my age exercise regularly. As a society, we will see much greater benefits from getting EVERYONE to exercise ENOUGH than focusing on the performance of a few top athletes.
Where do you stack up?
Exercise isn't a competition. Because somebody else gets enough doesn't mean you can't. When you exercise enough, it's better for everyone! It's a win-win.
Without comparing yourself to anyone else, ask yourself: am I doing myself justice?
Am I treating my body the way I should in order to be the best version of myself?
If not, you can change that. It's never too late to start. Pick and activity you like and schedule it in to your calendar. It takes as LITTLE as 2.5 hours a week. I KNOW you can make 2.5 hours a week to move your body.
So what are you waiting for? START.
If you don't know where to start, come try my classes!