By: Kathleen A Hogan, MD
Weight matters to all of us, whether we’re size 6 or 16. Regular exercise can help with weight maintenance and loss, especially when combined with a healthy diet. Exercise also elevates mood, improves cardiovascular health, and increases bone density. Inactivity on the other hand, contributes to the development of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. How Much Time Do I Need to Exercise?
How Much Do I Need to Exercise?
People frequently wonder “How much time do I need to commit to exercising to get these benefits?” And “How it is possible to start an exercise program when my joints hurt?”
There is increasing scientific evidence that 30 minutes a day of vigorous activity may be just as beneficial to overall health and fitness levels as an hour or more of activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 hours of moderate activity a week. This can be accomplished in only 30 minutes per day for 5 of 7 days.
Shorter periods of activity are as effective as a prolonged workout. Plus, people are more likely to continue exercising and feel less fatigued when they stick to 30 minutes per day. Strength and flexibility exercises should be performed twice weekly in order to maximize health benefits. In addition, balance and agility exercises can help to prevent falls in older adults. Strengthening the core muscles can help to decrease the incidence of back pain.
My Joints Hurt. How Can I Exercise?
Every day in clinic I have patients tell me that they couldn’t possibly exercise because their joints hurt or because they are too overweight. That is simply not true. Many activities can be modified to minimize the stress on the joints.
The pool is an excellent alternative to land based activities. An exercise bike, elliptical trainer, and rowing machines all minimize joint stresses compared to running. Upper and lower body weight training is possible even for those who have arthritis in their hips or knees. Strength training builds muscle and increases bone density. Strong muscles can help decrease stress on joints.
How Do I Get Started?
If you do not routinely exercise or lift weights, you can easily injure yourself. I often recommend starting with a physical therapy program with a goal of designing a home exercise program based around specific joint ailments. But this only works if you commit to following through with the exercises you learn in therapy.
Use a Pedometer
How sedentary are you? I would suggest downloading a free pedometer app for your phone and keeping track of the number of steps you take daily for a week. A reasonable goal is 10,000 steps (5.2 miles) per day. If you have a desk job or sit most of the day you will likely take far fewer steps unless you add additional activities to your day. Sometimes having a reminder of just how sedentary one has been can be the encouragement needed to increase activity. Gradually work towards the very reasonable goal of doing something physically active for 30 minutes each day. Make sure you talk to your doctor about starting any exercise program, especially if this is new to you.