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Aerobic Exercise (cont.)

How Much Do I Need to Do to Gain All These Benefits?

It doesn't take all that much aerobic exercise to accrue lots of fitness and health benefits. There are two physical activity recommendations to choose from in the United States. One is the Surgeon General's "lifestyle" recommendation, where you can accumulate activity and incorporate it into your day (a nice way to save time for busy people), and then there's the formal "workout" recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

  1. Surgeon General: The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week to improve health and fitness. "Accumulated" means you can do it in shorter bouts throughout the day (for example, 10- or 15-minute intervals throughout the day), and "moderate intensity" means you feel warm and slightly out of breath when you do it. You can read more about the Surgeon General's "lifestyle" recommendation at: www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/sgr.htm.
  2. ACSM: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous activity, three to five times a week, at 60-90% of maximum heart rate, and two to three days of resistance training. You can read more about the ACSM formal workout recommendation at: www.acsm-msse.org/pt/pt-core/template-journal/msse/media/0698a.htm.

Both recommendations include aerobic exercise, and your health and fitness will improve if you follow either. Choose the Surgeon General's lifestyle recommendation if you are unable or unwilling to follow the ACSM workout recommendation, and stick with the ACSM recommendation if you're already putting in time at the gym or you like the buzz of vigorous exercise. Of course, incorporating lifestyle activity and formal workouts into your exercise plans will give you the best of both worlds.

Getting Started

Select an activity with a high probability that you will stick with it. It doesn't necessarily have to be fun, it just has to be something realistic that you are willing and able to do. You're probably setting yourself up to fail if you work 12 hours a day, take care of three young children, and still plan to use a treadmill at a gym that's a 45-minute commute from where you work or live. Instead, choose something more convenient. I love the "five minutes out, five minutes back" plan to get started. Just like it sounds, you walk out for five minutes at a moderate intensity (aerobic exercise), turn around, and walk back. That's it. Ten minutes of walking and off you go about your day. If you feel ambitious, start with seven and a half or even 10 minutes out and back, and add some abdominal crunches if you like when you finish. Keep in mind that you can always add more later on. The important thing is to get started.

Other Aerobic Options

Recreation center or gym classes, exercise videos (check Collage Video, or rent one at your library), stationary or outdoor biking, hiking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets you warm and slightly out of breath will work.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/6/2014

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