Exercising regularly and eating properly are goals everyone should have, particularly if you struggle to control your weight. Although the frequency, intensity, duration and type of preferred exercise differ from person to person, participating in some form of structured physical activity at least three times each week will help you preserve your health and possibly improve it. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet regimen.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises adults to engage in physical activity no fewer than three days per week. Support for the recommendation comes from numerous health studies, according to the agency's publication "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." The research indicates that certain kinds of physical activity help people decrease their risk of developing health problems, regardless of their age, disability, ethnicity, gender or race. The health-related advantages of performing adequate, regular physical activity include a lower risk of experiencing depression, heart disease, excessive weight gain, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and premature death.
Moderate vs. Vigorous Exercise
While any exercise is better than none at all, adults reap more benefits when they exercise at a moderate intensity for a minimum of 150 minutes each week. In many cases, the health benefits increase when you exercise more than three days per week, longer than 150 minutes per week or more intensely than a moderate level. Vigorous exercise — running rather than walking, for instance — provides health benefits comparable to moderate exercise in half the amount of time. If you exercise three times per week, aim for 50 minutes of moderate activity or 25 minutes of vigorous activity per workout.
Types of Exercise
Four kinds of exercise can supply fitness and health benefits. Aerobic exercise, such as cycling and swimming, requires muscles to move continually in a rhythmic manner for a length of time. This makes your heart beat faster and improves endurance by strengthening your cardiovascular system. Also called strength training, muscle-strengthening exercise, such as pushups and lifting weights, makes muscles stronger by forcing them to resist opposing pressure or weight. Weight-bearing exercise, or bone-strengthening exercise places pressure on bones to improve their growth and strength. Examples include activities involving impact with a surface, such as jumping rope or walking briskly. Stretching exercises increase your flexibility as you hold positions for 15 to 30 seconds to stretch each major muscle group. Always warm up before you stretch.
Pressed for Time
If you find it difficult to squeeze in a lengthy workout during your busy day, separating exercise sessions into multiple chunks of time lasting as little as 10 minutes each can still provide fitness and health benefits. For example, performing aerobic exercise once per day for 50 minutes is comparable to completing five 10-minute sessions per day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains. Before starting an exercise regimen, however, always get approval from your doctor first, particularly if you have a chronic condition such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
- American Council on Exercise; Fit Facts: Three Things Every Exercise Program Should Have
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Be Active Your Way — A Fact Sheet for Adults
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Physical Activity Has Many Health Benefits