Being active is an important part of staying healthy at any age.
Just by spending the optimal amount of time exercising each week, you'll become healthier.
Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight and drastically lower your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, various cancers, and an array of other dangerous and deadly conditions.
So exactly how much exercise do you need in order to reap all the rewards?
The answer to this magic question depends on your age. Keep reading to see how much you should be working out throughout life.
Children Ages 6 to 17
Children and adolescents need at least one hour (60 minutes) of physical activity every day. You may think that's an unrealistic expectation, but there's a good chance your child is already meeting this recommendation or is at least close to it. Think of recess and gym class at school, and simply running around outside after school with friends. It's a lot easier for kids to find enjoyment out of age-appropriate physical activities, and because they're not working full-time jobs, they can get plenty of exercise with ease.
The three types of activities kids should include in their hour of exercise are aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening exercises, and bone-strengthening exercises.
Aerobic activities get the heart pumping and should make up the majority of a child's hour of exercise. Examples include running, fast-paced walking, riding bikes, and swimming.
Children also need muscle- and bone-strengthening activities several days a week. Younger children enjoy exercises such as gymnastics, push-ups, climbing trees, playing on the jungle gym, or jumping rope. Older children and young teens may prefer lifting weights or playing on a sports team.
Adults Ages 18 to 64
The amount of exercise needed by a healthy adult of normal weight is broken down into two categories: moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity exercises. Each week, adults need either five hours (300 minutes) of moderate exercise each week or two and a half hours (150 minutes) of vigorous exercise each week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities at least two days of the week.
What counts as moderate-intensity exercise? To get your heart rate up and break a sweat, it usually takes more than shopping or doing the laundry. If you're able to talk but not able to sing the lyrics to a song, then you're probably exercising at a moderate level. Activities considered moderate intensity include brisk walking, water aerobics, doubles tennis, or riding a bicycle on level ground.
Vigorous exercise takes place when you're breathing fast and your heart rate is elevated. You know you're at a vigorous level if you're unable to talk without pausing for breath. Examples include swimming laps, jogging, running, playing singles tennis or basketball, or bike riding on hills or at a fast pace.
In addition to aerobic exercise, adults need to add muscle-strengthening exercises to their routine at least two days a week. These exercises should target all muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, back, hips, and legs) and include activities such as weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, resistance bands, or Yoga.
Adults over 65 years of age who are in good physical health should aim for two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate exercise or one hour and fifteen minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous exercise.
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Trying to calculate a way to get in all the exercise you need?
Don't feel obliged to only get the minimum amount of exercise needed. After all, as long as you don't overdo it, more exercise usually equals more health benefits.
If you want to mix things up with some moderate and some vigorous exercise, that's fine. Just remember that two minutes of moderate exercise equals the same as one minute of vigorous exercise. So for maximum impact in minimum time, it may be time to amp up your routine.