Apr 19, 2022How Much Should You Exercise to be Healthy?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the ideal exercise regimen balances cardiovascular work and strength training. Their guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days a week. Additionally, you should do strength training twice a week.
What this means in practice depends on your age. For example, the American Heart Association defines moderate-intensity physical activity as activity that increases your heart rate to 50% to 70% of its maximum rate, while vigorous physical activity is about 70% to 85% of the maximum rate. But your ideal target heart rate changes as you age. Twenty-year-olds have a higher target (100-170 beats per minute) than 50-year-olds (85-145 beats per minute). That means less-intense exercise can still make a big impact the older you get.
As you age, strength training also becomes more important for bone health. “You lose muscle mass as you get older,” says orthopedic surgeon Anne Marie Chicorelli, DO. “And it’s important to recognize that. People ask me all the time, ‘Well, I walk every day. Isn’t that enough?’ and I will respond, ‘That’s great for your cardiovascular health, but it doesn’t do as much for your strength.’ Strength training, weight training, and jogging are impact activities that increase your bone health and decrease your risk for fractures. And make sure to talk to your primary care provider before initiating an exercise program.”
These impact activities also help you improve your balance — specifically, proprioception balance, or “knowing where you are in place in space and time,” says Dr. Chicorelli. “Improving proprioception goes hand-in-hand with strengthening to prevent falls.”
Because working out is about moving your body, many activities count as exercise. “Gardening, dancing, any type of cleaning in your house, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling your snow — those are all exercises,” says Dr. Chicorelli. “Doing the laundry is also exercise because it’s lifting heavy weights.”
Strength training is also easily incorporated into your daily life. “Resistance bands, cans of corn or soup — anything that you can grip that increases your resistance is helpful,” notes Dr. Chicorelli. “That can be anything from pushing a chair while you’re doing something to lifting your child. If you’re a parent, you can incorporate your child into your activities. Doing sit-ups with your child as a weight — or any exercise where your child serves as resistance — can increase strength and be good for bonding with your child.”
As with movement, you can also build strength training into everyday activities you’re already doing. “If you’re washing the dishes, you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds and then switch off and stand on the other one,” suggests Dr. Chicorelli. “That helps improve your balance. And we know that balance is so important as we get older.”
She adds that flexibility is another important component of exercise. In other words, sign up for that yoga or pilates class. “Yoga incorporates flexibility and stretching,” says Dr. Chicorelli. “As we get older, that’s important to keep our joints supple.”