So how much should we do? There are general guidelines on this based on how much starts to produce significant measurable benefits, but really anything is better than nothing, so do as much as you can, when you can, in any way you can and importantly you must enjoy it. Don’t exercise because I told you, exercise because it gives you pleasure.
For weight loss, most guidelines recommend >150 minutes a week which is 30 mins 5 times a week. That’s actually very little because it means for the other 23.5 hours of the day you not moving much. However, there is far more to it than just these guidelines.
The first point is that any movement is good. When you start moving it makes you feel better. That small experience of happiness, of success, of freedom, gives you a taste for what will happen if you do more. That can inspire you and motivate you to do more. So it doesn’t matter initially how much you are moving, just start.
The second point is that consistency and regularity is more important than the total amount. For example, doing 10 mins every day is far better than doing 3 hours one day a week. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly because when we start with 10 minutes the hard work is over, we are moving now, so we are likely to keep going and do more, the second reason is we are building new ways of life and new habits into our daily routine, and remember that is the key to this whole process.
The third point is if you are going from being really inactive to moving more – take your time and build up the amount slowly. If you push yourself too hard with too much load on your body like lifting too many weights or running too far, you will injure yourself. Progressively get your body into it, start low and go slow.
If you really have little experience moving regularly or in a certain way, perhaps at the gym, or running, or swimming, or climbing or whatever – get a coach or professional to help you initially. They are an invaluable resource and by learning proper technique, to begin with, you will do the exercise properly, your body will respond better and you won’t hurt yourself.
The fourth and final point is it is not just about how much we move, but it is also about how little we stay sedentary and inactive. Many studies have shown that being inactive and being sedentary like sitting on your chair at work for hours or watching tv on the couch for hours is a risk factor for heart disease and obesity. That is independent of how much physical activity you do. So if 2 people both exercise 30 minutes a day, but the one who sits more is more likely to be overweight and have a heart attack.
What about if you are injured or have a disability? It probably would be wise if you have a chat with a professional like an exercise physiologist first, they can give you a program that is designed for you.