How Much Exercise Do You Actually Need?
According to Dr. Michael Greger in his book How Not To Die, "More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight. By 2030, more than half the country’s population may be clinically obese." And surprisingly, research suggests that the level of physical activity has actually increased in the United States. Meaning, we are eating way more calories than we are burning.
I’m sure you’ve all heard that abs are made in the kitchen. And we all know that it’s much easier to mindlessly munch, than to go outside and get active. But how much do we actually need to move in order to work off what we ate?
“To walk off the calories found in a single pat of butter or margarine, you’d have to add about an extra half mile to your evening stroll. For every additional sardine on your Caesar salad, that’s another quarter-mile jog. If you eat two chicken legs, you’ll need to get up on your own two legs and run three miles just to make up for it-and that’s stewed, skin removed.” - Michael Greger M.D.
That’s quite a bit of movement! Especially if you don't normally jog a mile. If you are having trouble finding the motivation to start, check out my previous post, How to Start your own fitness Journey. It’s much better to start slow than jumping into an hour of vigorous activity and getting overwhelmed.
Is "Moderation" Killing You?
Whenever you hear someone say, “everything in moderation” ask them to explain to you what "moderation" is to them. Get real specific. You might get some weird looks, but I guarantee most people have absolutely no idea what that means.
People say, I eat fast food in moderation. What does that mean? If they say once a week, that’s a habit that isn’t “in moderation”. And to probe deeper, are they really remembering every time they went? Did they write it down? Because there were times, back in the day, when I grabbed breakfast at a fast food restaurant and then lunch at the same place later. But it didn’t register that I got it twice because one was breakfast and one was lunch. I categorized them separately in my mind and just totally forgot.
Sometimes someone orders you lunch without asking you what you wanted, you’re in the car with a friend and they want fries so you get a few of their fries, life happens. That’s moderation.
What About Exercise?
As always, with exercise, check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
It’s not bad to start off slowly when it comes to exercise, but as your body gets used to the physical activity, it’s always important to push. The habit of safely adding more time to your walks, increasing intensity, or adding more reps, is one your body needs in order to get better. But, “in moderation” you may never push yourself to get healthy.
I understand that you could have a bad day, you are tired, and all you can do is the bare minimum. But keep in mind what the bare minimum is – and it is still doing exercise. If you are used to jogging, and the kids kept waking you up all night, do a walk. The point is, you have to do something.
But for how long?
Previously the surgeon general, the CDC, and the American College of Sports Medicine, recommended at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. What is it now? Now the guidelines are just 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day. It’s gotten lower, not because we benefit from less exercise, but because so few people actually follow through with 30 minutes that they believe by lowering the time limit, more people will start their fitness journey. Unfortunately, for those of us interested in being healthy that doesn’t answer our question.
And according to Dr. Greger the answer is, "90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 40 minutes of vigorous activity." That may sound like a lot, but think of what you already do in a day that counts as moderately-intense. Do you walk your kids to school? Walking briskly counts. Do you ride your bike to work? Yard work and housework counts.
Try a cleaning power hour. Write down a list of chores that are important, set a timer for 1 hour, and do them all as fast as you can. You will get more cleaning done and get active at the same time. And hey, that’s already 60 minutes down!
Want to go the 40 minute route? Jogging, step aerobics, swimming laps, circuit weight training, or walking briskly uphill counts. I usually do circuit training because it’s a fun way to incorporate different exercises. You can do a full body workout in 40 minutes and it goes by super-fast because you only do each movement for about 40 seconds before moving on to the next one. Circuit training is a great way to workout with friends too!
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