How much exercise do I need to do?

By Murtaza Ahmed MD

One of the big hurdles people wanting to get started with exercise face is not knowing what, or how much to do.  Everyone agrees that exercise is beneficial to health but sadly after this things seem to fall apart.  The problem is that everyone seems to disagree on what the right amount of exercise to do is or what activities count as exercise.  Three hours a week, four hours a week, thirty minutes a day, five days a week…………  These are just some of the many conflicting guidelines you may come across when searching for information.

Each organization, be it the American Heart Association, College for Sports Medicine or Department of Health and Human Services seem to have their own ideas, and while they may be of interest to academics deciding if one way may be slightly better than another, they are generally fairly useless to the average person who just wants to get out there and improve their health.  I am not saying that none of them are right, but instead that they overcomplicate a simple matter and as a result put some people off exercise altogether.

The fact is that exercise is by no means an exact science and nobody actually knows what type of exercise or how much exercise is better.  The one guideline that should be at the top of everyone’s list is ‘any exercise is better than no exercise’.  The problem with any fixed guideline is that it puts pressure on an individual to do a certain amount of exercise.  They give the impression that if you can only manage to exercise four times a week instead of the recommended five then it is not beneficial to health and this can lead to people with good intentions giving up and missing out!

There was a time when just getting off your armchair and going outside was classed as exercise but as time has passed and gyms have popped up left right and centre, people’s perceptions of what constitutes exercise have changed.  Now you might think that you have to run on a fancy piece of equipment or cycle on a spin bike if you want to class what you are doing as beneficial.  Don’t get me wrong, these are great forms of exercise, but there are many things you can do at home or outside and the best thing is that they are free.

So what are all these different activities you can do to improve your health?  Well the answer is anything that involves you raising your heart rate above resting.  For some people this will be as simple as going out for a walk while for others it may be a hard run.  For some it will be taking the family out on a gentle bicycle ride along the local track whilst for others it may be a 100km bike ride.  If you want to exercise at home why not try learning to use a jump rope or setting up a stepping block to use whilst watching TV.

The main thing to remember is that you are not comparing yourself to anyone else.  We all come across people who think that they are working harder than you and who will try to make your exercise look inadequate, but just remember that there is always someone else who is thinking the same about him or her.  What constitutes exercise can only be considered on a personal basis, which is why generic guidelines should only form a small part of your exercise plan.  Just get out there and find your OWN boundaries and when you do, push those and not somebody else’s.  This way you will continually improve and over time will accomplish things you never thought you would.  And I nearly forgot, more important than anything I have mentioned is to make sure you have fun and enjoy yourself.

About Murtaza Ahmed MD

Dr Murtaza Ahmed is a General Practitioner sub-specializing in the field of Sports, Exercise and Nutritional Medicine. He graduated from The University of Nottingham, England, and in addition to his medical qualification he holds a Masters in Sports and Exercise Medicine (MSc), Bachelor of Medical Sciences (BMedSci) and Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP London).
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One Response to How much exercise do I need to do?

  1. Pingback: Excuses not to Exercise – Part 1 – Knee Pain and Osteoarthritis | MyHeartBlog

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