How Much Physical Activity Is Enough? How much exercise do we need to improve our health compared to how much exercise do we need to achieve optimal fitness? Do Optimal Fitness Levels Directly Correlate with Optimal Health?
The truth is, we haven’t spent a lot of time researching these questions.
Generally speaking, the intensity and frequency of physical activity follow the law of diminishing returns. Simply put, you put in a little bit of effort, you get big benefits. If you put in a lot of effort – record hard workouts, you will improve even more, but not to the same degree.
Here’s a hypothetical trainee: Average height and weight A 50-year-old walks three times a week for 30 minutes. They achieve a moderate level of fitness and maintain a reasonable level of fat, but not the physique of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. Suppose the same person increases their workouts to a 45 minute brisk walk / jog three times a week and twice a week while doing yoga and weights. In this case, they will improve their fitness considerably – but not as much as the person who goes from a total sedentary lifestyle to 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week.
The best value for money is getting a moderate amount of exercise compared to double the amount of this workout.
Older people who try to work out to very high exercise volumes with higher intensity will greatly increase the risk of injury. The simple rule to follow is not to increase the duration or intensity by more than five percent every two weeks if there is no muscle soreness. So a 30-minute brisk walk changes to 32 minutes, then 34, and so on.
A recent study of data from the Framingham Heart Study looked at data from 2,000 subjects. The new review concluded that light exercise such as leisurely walking was not as effective as vigorous exercise in improving health. Specifically, vigorous exercise was three times more effective than moderate walking and 14 times more effective than simply reducing the time spent being less sedentary.
A second result is that those who recorded the highest level of daily steps at a vigorous level were able to compensate for the negative impact of being sedentary at other times of the day – think of the office worker who remains seated. eight hours a day and only goes to the gym 45 minutes a day. Despite the imbalance, the fitness program can partially offset the negative impact of being largely sedentary.
The review of the Framingham study seems to contradict what I said at the outset. I agree that increasing the intensity and duration of the exercise will make a big difference and that a sweaty walk is better than a walk. The study did not examine what it takes for a sedentary person to significantly improve their health, not just their fitness.
So, if you are a couch keeper, rest assured that levitating your butt off that couch and doing a brisk walk for 20 minutes will make a huge difference to your well-being, both physically and mentally. Start easy, and the hardest part is just that: getting started. Once you’ve been on a beginner’s program for a few months, you’re ready to work a lot harder.
Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Facebook at Sooke Personal Training.