Are We There Yet: How Much Exercise Do I Need?


In my previous article I discussed 5 tips to meeting your fitness goals. The first tip suggested you change your target to a more specific goal that can be achieved in a reasonable time (SMART goal setting).  Many people (including myself) focus on their waistline and physical appearance in the mirror when setting fitness goals. We all want to look good for our summer bikini or that upcoming wedding. Therefore not seeing the pounds melt off immediately is discouraging and often derails any progress. What we lose sight of are the other benefits of physical activity (wait, what? There are other reasons to exercise besides being a slim-thick size 4?). Regular physical activity leads to less body and muscle aches, better breathing, and increased strength that would come very handy during a zombie apocalypse (now if only I could learn to wheel a sword like Michonne).

Did you know that the U.S. government hosts an entire committee dedicated to establishing physical activity guidelines for Americans that leads to improved physical health and decreased chronic diseases? Neither did I. The Physical Activities Guidelines Advisory Committee examines the most current health literature, health issues and trends, and develops both aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines based on those findings.  

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This entire blog post is dedicated to giving you a bite-size version of the 2018 Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans (the entire document is 118 pages).  With these guidelines in mind, I hope to help you alter your fitness target. These results can’t be seen in a mirror but are invaluable. They might keep you going until you see your dreams of a slim waistline materialize. Below are the basic guidelines for adults 18-65:

  •  Sit less move more. Any amount of physical activity is considered better than none. This is a great starting point for those beginning or coming back to fitness. Incorporate basic tricks such as parking farther from the entrance. Taking breaks to walk around the office. Taking the stairs instead of elevators.

  • 150 to 300 minutes of moderate – intense exercise or 75 minutes to 300 minutes of vigorous-intense aerobic exercise is preferable for improved overall health.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting slow and aiming for the recommended 150 minutes!

  • Moderate or more intense muscle training exercise at least 2 days a week. No timeframe was given.

  • Bonus points – More than 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate – intense physical activity per week is great but not a must!

  • Additional info: the guidelines still hold true for pregnant women and individuals with chronic disease and disability. Pregnant women should only participate in vigorous-intense activities they engaged in before pregnancy. Overall, these populations are advised to meet guidelines with consideration of their condition and under the care of a healthcare provider.

You might be wondering what the heck moderate-intense and vigorous-intense exercise even means because I sure was. These terms are defined in my next post.

What this means for me: more cardio! My fitness goals have been to gain 15 pounds. Since I’m naturally thin I tend to avoid aerobic exercise to not lose weight. Reading these guidelines have been a great reminder to not sacrifice my cardiovascular health for the sake of being a slim-thick size 4 (gotta outrun those zombies!)


Famatta Martinaa

Nurse, Health & Wellness advocate, Fit Mom