Exercise in the New Year: How Much Do I REALLY Need?

January 8, 2023

By Dr. Mary Rose Strickland, Physical Therapist

Physical activity and exercise are the closest things to a “wonder drug” we have for diabetes, high blood pressure, and a variety of other conditions. Did you know that exercise also boosts your immune system? While so much may be out of our control, your ability to be proactive in protecting yourself IS well within your control.

Where do I start? How much activity do I really need and what type of activity should I do? The American College of Sports Medicine has formal recommendations for the quantity and quality of exercise for healthy adults. It includes specific recommendations for aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility; each that have their own benefits. Here they are, by category:

Cardiorespiratory Exercise: Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week. One continuous session AND multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes are both acceptable to accumulate the desired amount of daily exercise.

Resistance Exercise: Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. Very light or light intensity is best for older individuals or previously sedentary adults just starting to exercise. Two to Four sets of each exercise, with anywhere between eight and 20 repetitions, will help adults improve strength and power.

Flexibility Exercise: Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion. Each stretch held 10 to 30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.

Grab those walking shoes and be sure to take advantage of an extra 10 minutes at lunch or break to get some walking at a moderate-pace in. Add one before work and after work and you have achieved your 30 minutes for the day!