Do you get enough exercise? Do you perform 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every week? Or, do you work out for at least 30 minutes, five times each week? You’ve probably seen one of these questions, or some variation, on your annual personal health assessment. Why is that?
These questions are frequently asked because they provide an idea of your long-term physical health. Those who get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week have a much lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—the top killers of Americans every year. Inactive people who spend a lot of their day sitting also have a much higher risk of early death from these conditions. The good news is that you can reduce your risk by moving more. Simply sitting less during the day won’t help much; the real health benefit comes from being more active.
It’s important to aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of the two each week. Here’s a tip: One minute of vigorous-intensity physical activity counts as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Moderate-intensity physical activity should be fairly strenuous. On a scale from one to 10, it’s a five or six. And it should be hard for you to talk during the exercise session. Moderate-intensity activities include:
- Fast walking (3–4 MPH)
- Biking (slower than 10 MPH)
- Yard work or housework
Vigorous-intensity physical activity is even harder. On a scale from one to 10, it’s a seven or higher, and you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation during exercise. Vigorous-intensity activities include:
You might notice that strength-training activities aren’t listed above. While muscular strength is important and offers some benefits that aerobic training can’t provide, it isn’t always performed at a high enough intensity to count towards moderate or vigorous-intensity activity.
Regular exercise works for more than just keeping you alive longer: it helps you feel alive too. It reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Physical activity also helps prevent depression and anxiety, and it can help you manage related symptoms. In short, exercise helps make you more resilient, able to tolerate high stressors, recover, and grow from them. When staying active can touch just about every aspect of your physical and mental health, it starts to make sense why many experts say, “Exercise is medicine.”
First, take stock of any barriers that might make it difficult for you to get enough activity or exercise, like not having enough time, energy, or motivation. Then, strive to create good habits to make your exercise or activity plan stick. Use a Cardio planner and Weight-training planner to set some SMART goals and get moving.
*Editor’s note: This article is a part of a series from the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP at the Uniformed Services University. Please see the other articles in the series.