For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. To provide even greater health benefit and to assist with weight loss or maintaining weight loss, at least 300 minutes a week is recommended. But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefit.
- Strength training. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.
Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, biking, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, heavy yard work and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines, your own body weight, heavy bags, resistance tubing or resistance paddles in the water, or activities such as rock climbing.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more.
Reducing sitting time is important, too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. Sitting too much can negatively impact your health and longevity, even if you get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. And some research has found that people who've lost weight may be more likely to keep off the lost weight by sitting less during the day.
Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can't fit in one 30-minute walk during the day, try a few five-minute walks instead. Any activity is better than none at all. What's most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
Sept. 22, 2021
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity/current-guidelines. Accessed June 15, 2021.
- AskMayoExpert. Physical activity (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2021.
- Tips for starting physical activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/tips-get-active/tips-starting-physical-activity. Accessed June 15, 2021.
- Roake J, et al. Sitting time, type, and context among long-term weight-loss maintainers. Obesity. 2021; doi:10.1002/oby.23148.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. June 16, 2021.