How Much Exercise Do You Actually Need?

So it isn’t exactly breaking news that exercise is good for you. When we workout consistently, we improve our cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as lower our risks for osteoporosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Exercise releases endorphins, which is a natural mood elevator. It also boosts energy levels and helps you sleep better at night. Cardio gets your heart pumping and improves blood flow, which gives your complexion a radiant and rosy glow and minimises dark circles and eye bags.

But how much exercise do we actually need in order to gain all the health benefits mentioned above? According to researchers, the average person should be getting in about 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week.


Different Folk, Different Strokes

This is definitely not an exact science and the 150 minutes per week is not going to apply exactly to everyone; we all have very different lifestyles, after all. Some of us, for instance, are sitting at a desk or behind a wheel all day, while others are on their feet throughout the day.

We also exercise at different intensities and at a different pace. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that those who do intense aerobic exercise only need to do so for 75 minutes each week, which is half the recommended minutes per week for the average person.

The right amount (and type) of exercise for you is determined by your lifestyle, your body type as well as your workout goals. A yoga instructor, for example, would have a completely different exercise regimen and training schedule as a competitive swimmer.

Here are some basic tips to help you figure out which workout plan best meets your goals.


To Lose Weight

If you intend to lose weight, studies indicate that 300 minutes (60 minutes, 5 times a week) of moderate to vigorous exercise per week can lead to the biggest amount of weight loss.

But there is no getting around it—if weight loss is your main reason for exercising, then exercise alone isn’t enough; you will also have to watch what you eat. It’s a simple equation: to trim down, you need to burn more calories than you are consuming. For most of us, there is more room for cutting our calorie intake than there is time in the day to burn the extra calories we put in.


To Sleep Better

Are you having trouble sleeping at night?

In a 2013 survey, people who exercise claim to enjoy better sleep than those who did not exercise. Meanwhile, another study showed that participants who exercised between 75 and 150 minutes per week reported an improvement in their quality of sleep.

Contrary to popular belief, recent research also reveals that exercising late in the evening or at night does not make it more difficult to fall asleep—unless you are working out very vigorously and doing so less than an hour before you hit the sack.

So unless that was your plan, feel free to organise your workout to fit your schedule and hopefully, let your sleep problems slowly drift away.


To Gain Muscle Tone

Cardio can help you lose weight and burn fat, but if you want to tone your body, you will need to add on strength and resistance training as well.

Begin by adding resistance training twice a week. When you feel ready for more, follow that with a day of strength training. (To prevent injuries, don’t forget to stretch.)

This combination of cardio, strength and resistance training has the added benefit of boosting heart and lung health as well as keeping chronic inflammation at bay.


Lower Breast Cancer Risk

This one’s just for the ladies: new research shows that doubling up on the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week can potentially lower your risks for breast cancer even further. Definitely something to think about!


To Make Up for a Sedentary Lifestyle

If you’re in the majority of the white-collar working world, you are probably sitting at a desk for at least 8 hours of the day before you head home and sit for the rest of the evening in front of your television set. (Netflix, anybody?)

All that sitting has been linked to a host of terrible ailments that include cancer, diabetes (type 2) and heart disease. And this higher incidence rate also applies to people who exercise on a regular basis!

So on top of the average recommended weekly workout, you will need to stand up and move from time to time. One study has shown that getting up from the chair and taking a two-minute walk every hour on the hour can potentially cancel out the negative impact of all that sitting (there is apparently a 33 per cent lower risk of dying).

In order to remember to do it, set a reminder on your phone or laptop every hour—your health (and life!) may depend on it!