People often tell me they like the idea of being active, but they also cite the barriers to getting there:
- “I have no time!”
- The weather: “It’s too hot/too cold, it’s rainy/windy/snowy.”
- I get all sweaty, and then can’t shower afterwards.”
- “I’m too rushed in the morning, but too tired after work.”
- “I hate exercising. Period.” (Growing up, this was me.)
I’ve used all those reasons. And the general recommendation has been to get about 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity” or 75-150 minutes of “vigorous” physical activity every week.
Now comes a study saying that to live longer, we’d need 300 minutes of moderate exercise each week (150 minutes if it’s vigorous)! You can already hear the (and my) frustration:
“It was hard enough for me to get in 150 minutes a week.
Now you tell me I should be DOUBLING that?”
No worries. Any activity more than you were doing is better. Besides, nature is flexible and works on a spectrum, not absolutes. First some basics though.
Definitions: “Moderate” vs. “Vigorous” Activity
Moderate activity gets your heart rate pumping at about 50-70% of your “maximum heart rate.” Two easy formulas that tell you your max rate are:
1. 220 minus your age. Example: You’re 50, so 220 – 50 = 170 is your max heart rate. OR,
2. 206.9 – (0.67 x age). Example: 206.9 – (0.67 x 50) = 206.9 – 33.5 – 173.4 is your max hart rate (round to the nearest whole number).
Take 173 as your max rate, then 50-70% of that is 87-121 beats per minute will indicate your doing “moderate physical activity.”
A fun, but less precise, test of moderate exertion is the “talk-sing test”. If you can have a conversation during your exercise, you’re in moderate-activity mode. If you can sing, work a little harder.
Examples of moderate activity:
- Housework (think mopping, vacuuming, washing windows, etc.)
- Bike riding at 10-12 miles per hour
- “Brisk walking” (defined below)
Vigorous activity? Cardio stuff that makes you sweat. Examples include:
- Jogging (12 mph pace)
- Stair climbing
- At the gym: Stairmaster, spin class, elliptical, jogging on the treadmill at a pace that makes conversation really difficult. More examples are here.
Finally! “Brisk Walking” Defined!
Brisk is the key word here. This study reviewed the research and concluded brisk walking to be 100 steps per minute.
Go with it. Note: if your own walking pace is faster (mine is), even better. I advise walking “like you need to get where you’re going.”
Everything Has Its Limits
Activity levels in the “300 minutes/week” study were all self-reported, and people are notorious for over-reporting their activity. But this study also found no additional health or longevity benefits from >300 minutes of moderate activity a week. You’ll still burn calories but that’s it.
Best Reason to Be Active: The One That Matters To You
Being active has nearly unlimited benefits, but what would motivate YOU to be more physically active?
- QUALITY of life: Less fatigue, more energy, better mood and emotional balance?
- More mobility, less joint pain?
- Heart health, lower blood pressure?
- Reduce your waist?
- Type 2 diabetes: lower A1C (if it’s high)?
- Lower risk of virtually all chronic diseases?
Best WAY To Be Active: The Way You Like To Be!
When I found fun activities, I’d look forward to doing, and the time would fly by. Here are some hacks that have helped me over the years:
- Do anything more than you’re doing now. 150 minutes a week is a lot for a sedentary person.
- Try 10-minutes at a time, and just walk briskly. If it’s more than you’re doing now, it wins.
- Do stuff you like. When I found fun activities, I’d rush to them.
- Mix it up. You might like biking but weather doesn’t permit it all the time. Develop options you love to do.
- Make SOME activity part of your daily routine. Then it’s not exercise, it’s just “what I do.”
Being Active: The Cut To The Chase Takeaway
If your limit is 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, you’re still way ahead of most people. Take a bow. You do what you CAN do. Do What You LIKE to do. Do it DAILY. Period.