One of the most common questions people ask me about is:

“How much exercise do we need?”

There is no clear answer to this, though.  In truth, each person needs to define his or her own fitness plan and goals.  However, there are some basic guidelines that can help you create the perfect schedule.

At a minimum, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services suggests getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each and every day.  This refers to cardiovascular exercise, which improves your heart health.  Cardiovascular activities can include running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc.  However, to meet the 30 minute guidelines, you only need moderate activity.

To get more substantial fitness benefits, you will want to go well beyond the minimal recommendations suggested for optimal heart health.  For beginners, it is best to start small with 3 days of cardio exercise at a moderate / vigorous pace for thirty minutes.  Over time, you can either increase your time or crank up the level of intensity.  This means going faster, adding resistance (like hills), or interval training with short sprints.  Finally, to optimize exercise benefits, try varying your cardio exercise each day.  For example, you might go for a jog one day, bike the next, and hop on an elliptical trainer on the third.  This challenges your body to respond to new situations and results in greater gains.  Over time, you can increase your cardio regimen to 4-5 days per week.  Some people like to do more, but remember to at least take it at an easier pace 1-2 days per week.

When it comes to strength training, you should aim to work each major muscle group twice per week.  However, you should not train the same muscles on consecutive days.  To get the most from your workout, you need time to rest and let your muscles recover.  So, it is best to wait at least 48 hours before exercising the same muscle again.

Ultimately, when the question “how much exercise do we need?” is asked, you need to set a fitness schedule that works for you.  It should be something you will be consistent with and will not interfere with your other responsibilities.  Some people split their workout into several 10-20 minute blocks, while others prefer one long session.  Additionally, some people squeeze their fitness into 3 days per week, while others workout every day.  It all depends on your goals, schedule, and lifestyle.

Some people prefer to develop their own program, while others prefer an existing program.  I’m an “existing program” kinda guy.  With so many program available, you are sure to find something that works for you and your personal goals.  Beginner programs, extreme programs, or even those for people short on time.  Read my article titled, Compare Fitness Programs, to see which program might work for you. Regardless, whether you get creative and develop your own program, or choose an existing program, the important thing is to just get started.  You’ll be glad you did, nothing feels better than losing weight and getting in shape!  Good luck, and remember, we are here to help you!