Anyone in the world can tell you that exercising is good for the body. Yet one question that is often only vaguely answered, is how much exercise is needed to see a benefit? Of course, the answer depends on how fit you are already, your age, your health status and more. One thing is for certain though, every little bit helps.
Studies have now shown that the ideal amount of exercise per week is at least 2.5 hours of medium intensity. However, if that is too difficult to fit in or you feel it is too tough, then studies show that doing anything is better than nothing. While the more you do will deliver increased benefit, the biggest leap in benefit was seen between doing absolutely nothing and starting to exercise. If you are intimated by the idea of exercising and how much commitment it would take, just do something. Do something today and tomorrow decide if you are able to keep going. By doing only a little bit you are lowering your risk for a high number of diseases across the board.
The same study showed that only 1 in 5 people aged 65 or older get the recommended amount of exercise each week. Simply taking a brisk 30-minute walk 5 times a week would be enough to reach the minimum threshold (if you are wondering how brisk is brisk, then doctors say you should be able to talk, but not be able to sing comfortably).
If you can get 2.5 hours a week it will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and stroke substantially. Studies have now been done on people who do even less than that and while the benefits are not enough to change the minimum requirements, they do show a benefit. One of the most formidable studies highlighted was of nearly 140,000 people. It was conducted over 13 years and found that those who walked for 2 hours every week were 26% less likely to die early than those who did nothing.
The benefits for your mental health are considerable too. By exercising for as little as an hour a week you are securing yourself against the impact of depression. In fact, some studies have shown that if you exercise too much the strain on depression can increase again. It showed that those who do nothing are most likely to suffer from depression, those who exercise more than six hours per week are next and those who exercise between two and six hours per week were the least likely to suffer from depression of any group.
If you do choose to exercise for short periods it is worth trying to increase the intensity occasionally too. While you may start out walking it is good to try and push it a little further occasionally. This push will give you a mental and physical edge.
The best way to get started is by simply taking a walk. Many people underrate this exercise because it doesn’t leave you in pain or gasping for air but it is great for your body and mind. From there start to at little bits of higher intensity where you can. Maybe walk for 30 minutes but run the last 200 meters to your home. If 30 minutes seems like too much then split it up throughout the day. Ten three-minute walks are no problem at all. There are many step counters on the market to help you track your progress.
If you are reading this and are someone who does absolutely no exercise then you need to start doing something today for your future mental and physical health. Don’t be intimidated as the studies have shown it doesn’t need to be much. We are not asking for six-pack abs or full marathons, we are just asking you to get started.