Do you exercise because you want to add more years to your life? A new study tells you how long you need to train.
After following participants for over 30 years, the researchers found that those who performed 300 to 600 minutes of moderate physical activity a week experienced the biggest reduction in mortality. The study was conducted by Harvard University and published by The American Heart Association.
It’s an ambitious goal considering this is 2 to 4 times the current guidelines of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity.
You’ll probably be happy to know that the current guidelines will still help you live longer. In fact, even modest amounts of exercise can make a big difference in your mental and physical wellbeing.
You have a lot to gain whether you aim for 600 minutes a week or stick to more modest fitness goals. Try these suggestions for developing a sustainable and effective workout program.
Finding More Time to Exercise
Lack of time is a major obstacle for many busy adults.
Try these suggestions for squeezing more movement into your week:
- Limit screen time. A Nielsen study found that the average American adult spends 11 hours a day looking at screens. Turn off the TV and cut down on browsing outside of work.
- Track your days. To identify other time drains, keep a journal. Maybe you could be more productive in the early morning or when you arrive home from work.
- Combine goals. Do other things while you work out. Invite your partner to join you for a brisk walk. Listen to podcasts while you ride a stationary bike.
- Cut the commute. Do you have a long drive to the nearest gym? Find activities you can do at home. Invest in your own equipment or take fitness classes online.
- Break it up. It’s okay to exercise in multiple shorter sessions. That might mean using your lunch hour plus a couple of 10-minute breaks.
- Boost your motivation. You’re more likely to succeed if you’re committed. Remember your purpose and find activities that you enjoy.
Intensifying Your Workouts
These recommendations are based on moderate to vigorous physical activity. That means burning 3 to 6 times more energy than sitting still for the lower end of the scale and over 6 times at the high end.
Try these strategies:
- Start small. You’ll make more progress if you pace yourself. A common rule of thumb is to increase the intensity by up to 10% each week. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about what activities are safe for you.
- Try to talk. The conversation test is an easy way to measure intensity without any equipment. During moderate activity, you can talk but not sing. During vigorous exercise, you’ll struggle to say more than a few words at a time without stopping to catch your breath.
- Use technology. If you want more precise data, there are many fitness tracking devices and apps to choose from. You can download some basic tools like Instant Heart Rate for free or browse for more expensive options with extra features.
- Target large muscles. You burn more calories when you work your whole body or large areas like your legs. Smart choices include squats and rowing.
- Schedule rest days. Even professional athletes need time off. Take a rest day once or twice a week.
Increased longevity is just one of the many benefits of staying physically active. Regular exercise can help protect you from many serious health conditions and give you more energy to enjoy the things you love.