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How Much Exercise is Enough?

"Just the FAQs!"


Updated February 15, 2014

sad woman at gym

Burnout is a common pitfall for exercise beginners. Doing too much, too soon can backfire, leading to loss of motivation and even injury.

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I need to lose about 50 pounds. I want to start exercising, but I just don't know what kind of schedule to follow. My friend says I should work out 40 minutes daily or it doesn't count. So how much should I exercise?


It depends on who you ask: The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2003 telling us to exercise a full hour each day to manage our weight. For years we heard we needed 30 minutes day four or five days per week to be helathy. And of course, there was the Surgeon General's advice from a few years back that said a half-hour each day would do the trick.

Brother, Can You Spare an Hour?
My advice? Begin by adding whatever activity you can comfortably start with and when you can do more, stick with it. One of the most sure-fire ways to give up on an exercise program is to make it so inconvenient that it's downright unachievable. Few of us can devote a full hour to exercise every single day; it's just not practical.

The Middle of the Road
The experts at the American College of Sports Medicine have stood by their suggestion for years: 30 minutes of moderate activity most (not all) days of the week is optimal.

Why does this work? It’s just enough exercise to help you maintain a healthy weight and still have some days to rest and recuperate. One of the worst things you can do when starting to exercise is to get burned out. Committing to a lengthy workout every day without any time off is an easy way for this to happen.

Avoid a Beginner's Blunder


So what if you're a weight-loss newbie? What if you've never worked out a moment in your life? Those 30 minutes can seem daunting. Don't let yourself believe that if you can't devote that full half-hour to working out that you shouldn’t even bother. Sure, 30 minutes may be ideal, but that doesn't mean less than that is worthless.

Try exercising for 10 minutes today and add five minute increments until you work up to 30 minutes. This may mean something as simple as parking further away from your office or walking a circuit through part of the mall before your Saturday shopping. Do what works for you.


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