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Exercise: How Much Do I Need?  

Do I get enough exercise each week? How long should I workout? These are common questions and now we have better answers.

The new 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines incorporate the first major review of the science of benefits of physical activity in more than ten years. They will help Americans aged 6 and older improve their health through appropriate physical activity.

The new U.S. Deptartment of Health & Human Services guidelines:

  • are more flexible - you can mix and match your activities to reach your weekly total
  • the more you do, the more benefits you gain - activity of 10 mins or longer count
  • the benefits of activity outweigh the risks of injury or heart attack

How many minutes do you exercise in a week? See chart below based on 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines - Health & Human Services.

©BodySpex 2009

Adults 18 - 64

Extensive Health Benefits

300 mins per week
150 mins per week
moderate aerobic activity

vigorous aerobic activity

Additional Health Benefits

240 mins per week
120 mins per week
moderate aerobic activity

vigorous aerobic activity
Min. Recommendations
For Health Benefits

150 mins per week
 75 mins per week
moderate aerobic activity

vigorous aerobic activity
Increase Activity For       
Health Benefits
120 mins per week
 60 mins per week
moderate aerobic activity

vigorous aerobic activity
Initiate Physical Activity
Program to Begin Gaining
Less than 60 mins per week
Less than 30 mins per week
moderate aerobic activity

vigorous aerobic activity

Important Notes:
- You may mix activities to reach your weekly total; combine moderate and vigorous
- Episodes of activity that are at least 10 mins long count toward meeting your weekly total

Instead of guessing about your activity intensity level, you can monitor your heart rate instead. Read our article Everything You Need To Know About Heart Rate to determine your heart rate training zone.

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Below are some examples of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activities.

Moderate Activities
(I can talk while I do them, but I can’t sing.)

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Using your manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous Activities
(I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath.)

  • Aerobic dance
  • Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Fast dancing
  • Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as karate)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
  • Swimming fast or swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

Children 6 -17
Recommendations are for 1+ hours of activity every day. These activities should include on at least 3 days per week: vigorous-intensity, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.

Older Adults 65+
When older adults cannot do 150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, they should be as physically active as their abilities allow. Use relative intensity to determine their level of effort for physical activity. Do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk for falling. Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.

Resistance / Strength Training:

  • Include muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week
  • Include all major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms
  • Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8-12 times per session

Benefits: The studies found that:

  • Health benefits of physical activity are attainable for people with disabilities
  • Health benefits of physical activity occur for children, adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group
  • Benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks of injury and heart attacks
  • For all individuals, some activity is better than none

The old guideline in 1995 from the Center for Disease Control and American College of Sports Medicine was: exercise at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

See the Fact Sheet for active adults.

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