How Much Should You Exercise?

So now that you have a basic understanding of what exercise is and the benefits of doing it, we will take a look at how much you should be doing in order to reap those benefits!



As the general ACSM-AHA guidelines state:

  • All healthy adults aged 18 to 65 need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for ~30mins five days per week or vigorous activity for a minimum of 20mins 3 days per week.

  • Combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise can be performed to meet recommendation (moderate intensity can be accumulated throughout the day; e.g. 3 sessions of 10 minutes)

  • Every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance a minimum of 2 days per week



Pretty bare bones, but at least gives you an idea of the minimum amount you should be doing in terms of intensity and frequency if you’re a healthy adult…With the main point of these newsletters to get more specific and give you a better understanding of exercise, let’s dive a little deeper and create some actual guidelines to figure out what would be best for YOU and YOUR body.


My initial answer, kind of going back to week 1, is that it will depend on a few factors:

  1. Who is exercising?

  2. What is the goal and the reason why you’re exercising in the first place?



This will help determine the type of exercise (aerobic or anaerobic), along with the frequency and intensity you need to be doing that type of exercise.

Side note: Frequency is a factor of time (the days per week, duration per day, number of sets/reps, etc.) and intensity is a factor of exertion (how hard are you pushing yourself)


First question...Who? Let me start by saying you know yourself best. As a fitness professional I work with a wide variety of clients, differing in age, gender, backgrounds, injury and medical histories, but one thing is consistent: they all know themselves way better than I ever would. Even if I went through the most extensive assessment process (which I will say I take everyone through a pretty thorough assessment prior to starting), I still will not know what is going on inside each individual’s mind or body. So as cliche as it sounds: Listen to your body! Here are some examples of what you might want to pay attention to:



  • Your range of motion (how your joints are moving) that day

  • Your fatigue level (tired/energized)

  • Your stress level (high stress/low stress)

  • Your pain level (if you have any pain)

  • What exercise have you already done that week?

  • What activities (outside of exercise) have you already done that week?

  • How have you been sleeping?

  • What did you have to eat and drink that day?

  • And just generally speaking, how do you feel? (Something I ask my clients prior to every session)



I pose all of these questions not to overwhelm you, but to bring up the fact there is a lot more to exercise than just ‘getting after it’ or mindlessly putting yourself through it to reach a specific number.


Now I will say, that’s the beauty of having someone (ahem, ahem) monitor most of that stuff for you. This will ensure that what you’re doing (which we’ll get to next) is the most effective and efficient use of your time. And that the exercise you’re doing is appropriate for your body on THAT DAY/AT THAT POINT IN TIME. I capitalize that to make a point that all of these things can change daily, weekly, monthly, etc. How do you know if you’re truly progressing and progressing appropriately for YOUR body?


Now I understand that working with a fitness professional may not be feasible for everyone, so here are two tips on what to pay attention to when determining your exercise frequency and intensity:

  1. As a rule of thumb, pay attention, be mindful, and listen to your body.

  • If you’re having a rough day and feel awful, maybe ease off the intensity of your exercise or take a day off

  • If you’re feeling great, by all means, increase the intensity and ‘get after it’ (all within a controllable, safe manner of course)

2. Internal Feedback (soreness, tightness, achiness, pain, fatigue, less range of motion)

  • Look at these as a continuum (a lot or a little), determine what your body is telling you, and adjust your exercise accordingly)

  • The old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is NOT what exercise should consist of...be smart...exercise should make you feel better than when you started, not hurt you or break you down

****It is never the single workout that makes the difference, it is the SERIES of workouts (consistency of exercise) where the adaptations (results) occur****


And let’s not forget about question #2...what is your goal? Size, strength, endurance, longevity/health, less pain, more energy, fat loss, maintenance (to name a few)

We could go in depth with every goal I just mentioned, but I will keep this brief and in general terms (with clientele that I primarily work with and their common goals in mind). Just realize that these will be very different from person to person, and very specific to the actual goal, but this will at least get you started.


Aerobic Exercise

Level: Beginner

Goal: Increase cardiovascular endurance

Frequency: ~ 20-30 mins; 3-4 times per week

Intensity: Low to Moderate Intensity (RPE Scale 4-7)

Level: Intermediate

Goal: Increase cardiovascular endurance

Frequency: ~30-60 mins; 3-4 times per week

Intensity: Moderate Intensity (RPE Scale 6-8)

Level: Beginner

Goal: Fat Loss

Frequency: ~ 10-20 mins; 1-2 times per week

Intensity: Vigorous Intensity (RPE Scale 7-9)


Level: Intermediate

Goal: Fat Loss

Frequency: ~ 20-30 mins; 2-3 times per week

Intensity: Vigorous Intensity (RPE Scale 7-9)

***RPE = Rate of Perceived Exertion (1=super easy; 10=very difficult)


Anaerobic Exercise (Strength Training Specifically)

Level: Beginner

Goal: Strength

Frequency: Major muscle group exercises; 1-2 sets of 8 to 12 reps; 1-2 times per week

Intensity: Moderate Intensity (RPE Scale 6-8)

Level: Beginner

Goal: Increase Muscle Mass

Frequency: Major muscle group exercises; 1-2 sets of 8 to 12 reps; 1-2 times per week

Intensity: Moderate Intensity (RPE Scale 6-8)


Level: Intermediate

Goal: Strength

Frequency: Major muscle group exercises; 3-5 sets of 4 to 6 reps; 1-3 times per week

Intensity: Moderate to Vigorous Intensity (RPE Scale 6-10); gradually increase to fatigue over time

Level: Intermediate

Goal: Increase Muscle Mass

Frequency: Major muscle group exercises; 2-4 sets of 8 to 12 reps; 1-3 times per week

Intensity: Moderate to Vigorous Intensity (RPE Scale 6-10); gradually increase to fatigue over time

***RPE = Rate of Perceived Exertion (1=super easy; 10=very difficult)


This should put things into perspective and give you an idea of what it might take to get you where you want to be. And just to note, as important and impactful as exercise is, it is only one variable in the equation, depending on the goal of course. (Other factors include nutrition, daily activity, current metabolism, genetic makeup, individual physiology, environmental factors, just to name a few - which we will dive into in future newsletters).

If you have any specific questions or could use some guidance, shoot me a message! Next week we will dive deeper into the realm of resistance (strength) training and start with a major influencer, MUSCLES!! Stay tuned.

Best,

Ryan