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How Much Exercise Do I Really Need?

Contributed by Dr. Calan Sowa, Primary Care Sports Medicine

Dr. Calan Sowa, our Primary Care Sports Medicine provider, wants to keep you strong and healthy.  He created a guide for people of all ages on what the best exercise guidelines are for you.

We are all very busy and work hard, so many of us feel that we do not have the time or energy to exercise on a regular basis.  But as Dr. Sowa explains, exercise is an integral part of a healthy life. 

Why Exercise is Important:

We know that high levels of inactivity and low levels of exercise can lead to increased rates of chronic illness and elevated health risks. A single episode of physical activity can reduce anxiety, decrease blood pressure and improve quality of sleep. Increased amounts of physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce the progression of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise can decrease the risk of developing eight types of cancer: bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung.

How Much Should You Exercise?

Recommendations differ depending on your age:

  1. Preschool-aged children (3-5 years old) should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Aim for at least 3 hours per day of active play.
  2. Youth ages 6-17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. Examples include walking, running, or anything that makes the heart beat faster. They should also incorporate activities that make their muscles and bones strong, like climbing on playground equipment and playing sports.
  3. Adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, among other activities. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups at least 2 days each week.

Tips on How to Introduce Exercise into a Busy Schedule:
  1. When given the choice, take the stairs! You’ll get both aerobic and strengthening exercise by skipping the elevator/escalator.
  2. During a lunch break, try to work in a 15 to 30-minute walk outside.
  3. Park at the far end of the parking lot so that you get extra steps walking into and out of work.
  4. If you have a hard time exercising during the week, it’s OK to exercise in longer chunks over the weekend.  This is an important note because many think if you aren’t exercising daily it doesn’t count.  But that is not the case.  We are all very busy, so try to take advantage of the days where your schedule is less full and put in some extra exercise time on those days.  That may make working exercise into your schedule less stressful.