How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

Photo by Pixabay on

Health experts make it a priority to provide exercise advice for the general public. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the most up-to-date physical activity guidelines for overall health and weight management, which informs the recommendations shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Whether set by a governing body or recommended by a fitness professional, most guidelines for physical activity share the same advice: Cardiovascular exercise about three to five days a week and strength training about twice a week. Find out how much physical activity you need to stay healthy, plus tips for getting started.

Exercise for Overall Health

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the Department of Health and Human Services, recommend regular exercise for good health:

  •  Moderate-intensity cardio 30-minutes a day, 5 days a week; or vigourous-intensity  cardio, 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
  • 8-10 strength-training exercises with 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week

The following sample workout schedules show include workouts to help you meet the physical activity recommendations for overall health.

Getting Started

This beginner workout schedule is a great choice if you aren’t quite ready for a full 5 days of cardio:

  • Monday: 20-minute cardio workout
  • Tuesday: Total body strength training routine
  • Wednesday: 20-min cardio workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 20-minute cardio workout
  • Saturday: Total body strength training routine

Ramp Up the Intensity

This series takes it up a notch with more workouts and more intensity:

  • Monday: 30-minute elliptical workout at a medium pace.
  • Tuesday: 20-minute interval-training workout (alternate walking and jogging, or try this beginner interval training workout).
  • Wednesday: Total body strength training routine.
  • Thursday: 20-minute interval workout (alternate walking and jogging, or do the beginner interval workout).
  • Friday: Total body strength training workout.
  • Saturday: 3 sets of 10-minute walks at a brisk pace with a 1-minute rest in between.

Regardless of your goals, the amount of exercise you need to stay healthy and fit can seem intimidating, especially if you’re brand new to exercise. But any amount of exercise is better than no exercise at all, and it’s perfectly OK to start slow and ease your way into it. A great way to approach exercise is to start with a focus on improving your overall health.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?. Updated October 7, 2020.

U.S. Department on Health and Human Services. The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. September 16, 2020.

Author: Devika

Devika, M.Sc, NET Qualified is passionate about helping people discover the power of nourishing real food. She specializes in weight management, therapeutic nutrition, food allergies and intolerances, inflammatory diseases, gut health, and functional nutrition. Her approach blends a conventional health care and nutrition background with natural and science-based therapies.