Exercise is known to be an important part of your holistic health strategy, but that doesn’t mean you are required to spend hours in the gym every day, run a marathon, or keep up with Steve in a CrossFit class. That said, the right amount of exercise is guided by a few fitness benchmarks, set by dedicated researchers who work for organizations like the American Heart Association.
The Basics: Exercise Benchmarks
150 Minutes Per Week
Research shows that it is optimal to elevate your heart rate for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) every week. Before getting overwhelmed, this breaks down to half an hour five days a week or about 20 minutes every day of the week – that’s not too scary, right? Focus on getting the right amount of exercise for your body; even a brisk walk will get your blood pumping. If you sit for hours at a time at your job and often find days go by without much physical activity, join the club: according to the American Heart Association, only 20% of American adults hit this goal.
Now that we know we are in good company, let’s discuss how to get you into that top 20% of health-conscious Americans, working towards living to 100!
Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise
Elevating your heart rate is further broken down into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise focuses on endurance and utilizes oxygen to create energy. Anaerobic focuses on short spurts of high-intensity exercise that primarily uses glucose stores for energy. A combination of both is a recipe for a strong and healthy heart!
Aerobic Exercise: Exercise that uses oxygen as its energy source; longer endurance workouts
Anaerobic Exercise: Exercise that uses glucose as its energy source; short, high-intensity workouts
Remember to go at your own pace; both forms of exercise are not required to be healthy. Also, anaerobic exercise is practiced in short bursts – around 5-7 minutes. Sometimes all you need is one short 5-minute burst of energy and a brisk walk for the rest of the half-hour. Do what your body is comfortable with – any amount of challenge is the right amount.
Here are some examples of aerobic and anaerobic exercises from Healthline:
- Cross-country skiing
- Stair climbing
- Cycling and Rowing
- Elliptical training
- Brisk Walk (+2.5 MPH)
- Water aerobics or Dancing
- Swimming laps
- Jumping or jumping rope
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Heavy weight lifting
- Calisthenics and Plyometrics
- Jump Squats and Box Squats
Define Your Fitness Goals
Alright, so we know how much time we should spend exercising each week, the difference between aerobic and anaerobic heart elevation, and we have a good list of exercises to get us started. So now on to our next stop: what are your fitness goals?
Are you trying to bulk up or slim down? Are you looking to finally do 20 pull-ups or do you want an activity that fits into your lunch break? Have you been active your whole life but really want to take it to the next level? Or have you been largely sedentary and looking for that first step? All goals are valid!
Here are a few suggestions for each level:
- For the person who is just getting started: Don’t overwhelm yourself with heavy weight-lifting sessions and sprints; start with two 15-minute walks a day or one 30-minute walk after dinner. If you’re only able to walk two days a week, no problem! Start where you are and build from there.
- For the person who is active: You have plenty of activity during the day, but maybe you don’t set aside time for a dedicated workout. Any activity is great, but dialing it up with some weights, squats, or yoga could really take your strength to the next level. Try picking 2-3 exercises from the aerobic list and rotate them throughout the week.
- For the person who needs a challenge: You set aside time most days of the week to knock out a workout – but maybe you’re doing the same exercises? Your body is incredibly adaptive and quickly conditioned to specific exercises. Mix it up with short bursts of anaerobic exercise, like HIIT or sprints. Incorporate these exercises into half of your workouts to give your body a new challenge.
The Health Benefits of Exercise
Armed with your fitness goals, you are now ready to get moving. We will leave you with a list of direct health benefits due to the right amount of exercise, curated by The American Heart Association:
- Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
- Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
- Improved cognition, including memory, attention, and processing speed
- Less weight gain, obesity, and related chronic health illnesses
- Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
- Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being
This is our goal at Lively Habits: to help you live to 100 without chronic diseases, one step, squat, pull-up at a time.
Chronic diseases – such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and heart disease – are leading causes of death and disability. The Liu Foundation offers philanthropic GoLively app and video series promoting evidence-based lifestyle habits to prevent chronic diseases. GoLively integrated Harvard, Stanford, and CDC’s Public Health findings into an easy-to-use behavior conditioning app and series of lifestyle motivation videos to prevent chronic diseases.
GoLively app and videos cover physical, mental, social, financial, and medical health aspects with 10 healthy lifestyle habits. GoLively enables corporate social responsibility to lower the annual $4 trillion spent on preventable chronic diseases in the United States. Healthy habits can lead to improved employee health, saving healthcare cost, increasing productivity, and morale. Download the Lively Habits app to help you keep track of your 10 healthy lifestyle habits. Go Lively!