30 Minutes of Daily Exercise

Why You Need It and How to Do It

The health community worldwide is in agreement that exercise is necessary to maintain physical health. The Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization and Mayo Clinic all recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of intense exercise or a combination thereof, along with two weekly sessions of muscle-strengthening activity.

Why? Because being physically active has benefits for the heart, the body and the mind. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, five days per week, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety and can enhance cognitive function. However, many people around the world live largely sedentary lifestyles, sitting for the vast majority of their waking hours. According to the CDC, more than 60% of Americans do not meet daily activity goals, and 25% are not active at all. The takeaway? Get moving, folks!

What is the difference between moderate and vigorous exercise?

During moderate physical activity, your heart rate elevates and you break a sweat. Your breathing should be taxed to the point that you can talk, but you couldn’t sing your favorite song. During vigorous exercise, your heart rate is very elevated, your breathing becomes more labored and you can’t say more than a few words at a time. If you wear a fitness watch that tracks your heart rate, subtract your age from 220 to get a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate. Moderate activity falls in the range of 50 to 70% of your maximum, and vigorous activity is 70 to 85%. So, if you are 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190 beats per minute. During moderate activity, your heart rate should be 95 to 133 beats per minute, and during vigorous activity, it will rise to 133 to 162 beats per minute.

Where You Start Doesn’t Matter

A person who is very physically fit will be able to walk at a much faster pace while maintaining their breathing and heart-rate window than a person who is not very fit. But it makes no difference where your starting line is, as long as you start. If walking raises your heart rate into your moderate zone, great. Stick with it for a while, and you’ll see that you’ll gradually be able to walk more briskly and stay in that zone, or even move on to a jog. Just remember, everyone is different and what is moderate or vigorous for your body will be different for someone else’s, so don’t fall victim to unhealthy comparisons! Exercise is healthy and any movement does your body good, no matter your current fitness level.

Assess Your Fitness Goals

Moving for 30 minutes each day is the minimum amount of activity necessary to maintain health and prevent disease. If you are currently not moving at all, starting with 30 minutes each day is an excellent beginning. But, if you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or have a specific fitness goal – say, deadlifting a certain amount of weight, or training for a road race or triathlon - your exercise program will need to be longer, more involved and specifically geared towards your individual fitness goals. To establish a workout program, it is best to seek the advice of a certified personal trainer or coach.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Seriously. Recent studies have shown that those who sit for more than eight hours per day with no exercise have a risk of death similar to that caused by obesity or smoking. Being sedentary increases your risk for a host of chronic diseases, while moving boosts circulation, muscle strength and energy production, supports the immune system and reduces the signs of premature aging. And unfortunately, exercise does not negate all the damage done by prolonged periods of sitting. After 30 minutes of sitting, your metabolism slows down by up to 90%. After two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol drops 20%. But, within 90 seconds of standing, your body reactivates and again begins processing blood sugar and cholesterol, and if you keep standing, blood flow will increase and your metabolism will reboot. Move more, sit less!

Fitness Routines Should Be Well-Rounded

A well-rounded fitness routine should include exercise that builds endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Endurance exercises raise your heart rate and accelerate your breathing to improve cardiovascular fitness. Think running, swimming, or biking. Strength exercises increase muscle mass, which will help you burn more fat, lose weight, and strengthen bones. They can include weightlifting, bodyweight training or resistance band exercises. Balance exercises improve stability and prevent falls and include exercises done on one leg, standing yoga poses and martial arts like tai chi. Flexibility exercises increase mobility and range of motion and improve posture and tissue quality. Think stretching or yoga.

Shorter Workouts Work, Too

Your daily exercise doesn’t all have to be done at once. If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to work out, let got of the idea that a shorter session isn’t worth the effort. Any amount of movement is better than none, and several, shorter bouts of exercise during the day can be just as effective as one longer one. Try 10 minutes of riding your bike in the morning, a brisk, 10-minute walk after dinner, and 10 minutes of pushups, planks and air squats on your lunch break.