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How Much Should I Exercise?

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -
How Much Should I Exercise?

Most people know they need to exercise to be in good physical shape. Yet many people get discouraged, because they think that exercise means jogging in the park at dawn or spending hours at the gym.

Getting and staying physically active simply means adopting and maintaining an active lifestyle. Regular physical activity not only helps prevent overweight and obesity and the chronic illnesses related to it, but it can also increase our chances of living longer and enjoying a better quality of life. “Regular” physical activity means doing some type of exercise on a regular basis at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.


What type of exercise should I do?


Consider two things when selecting a physical activity to do.  First, try to think of exercises that keep you moving continuously for at least 20 of the 30 minutes. A few examples include walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, or a group aerobics class. Some popular sports such as bowling, baseball, and golf don't meet this requirement. The good physical condition of those who practice these sports on a regular basis is dependent upon a person’s physical training. Secondly, be sure to participate in activities that you enjoy. If you enjoy the exercises you are doing, you are more likely to do them on a regular basis. Make sure that the frequency and duration of the program does not keep you from enjoying the activity.

How do I get started?


When starting an exercise routine, it is important to listen to your body. Begin slowly, and add time and/or intensity to your routine a little bit at a time so you can gauge your own condition and endurance. You should try to exercise until you feel tired, but without feeling completely exhausted.


Walking is a good exercise to start with. It is okay if you start out exercising less than the 30 minutes suggested. Each session will allow you to assess your capacity, and in no time, you'll notice that you do same distance in less time. 

 
Try your best to keep moving for at least 20 minutes, taking into account that you need 10 minutes to warm up and some time to cool down. You need to exercise for 20 minutes for your heart and lungs to improve their aerobic capacity, and to provide each and every cell of your body the oxygen needed to perform their functions properly. These functions are essential to enjoy good health and to live a better and longer life.

To reduce the risk of injury while exercising, you should modify only one of the following parameters of your routine at a time: frequency, intensity, or duration. Your dedication and effort will determine how much you can achieve.

Two additional tips:

  • If you can't exercise for 30 continuous minutes a day, exercise in shorter sessions (for example, three sessions of 10 minutes each). Always try to achieve the total recommended time.
  • If you can't exercise on a regular basis, you can increase the amount of daily physical activity you get making minor adjustments in your routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car farther away from the office, or walking to buy the paper, among others. Along with a healthy diet, these activities will benefit your health.

*Dr. Lara-Pantin, a nutrition specialist, is Vice President of Product Development for DrTango, Inc.

 

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