You’ve probably heard about the benefits of practicing physical activity and exercising, as most of the doctors, dietitians, personal trainers and media influencers are usually promoting it as a way of living. However, when you ask someone about how much exercise is needed to promote health, all the answers turn contradictory.

Some people exercise for fun, some other as therapy and few because they are athletes an it is what they typically do. This leads to different answers and consequentially, not to a consensus regarding specific number of days, intensity and type of exercise to be recommended.

So today’s post is about that answer many are trying to find out there: it is about “The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardio respiratory and muscular fitness and flexibility in healthy adults”.

Years have passed and the scientific community have been developing and conducting studies to help us find the answer to “How much do I need to exercise?”, thus leading us to scientific evidence that demonstrates the indisputable beneficial effects of exercise, even outweighing the risk of exercising in most adults.


What are the health benefits of physical activity and exercise in adults?

  • All-cause mortality is delayed by regularly engaging in physical activity.
  • The risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer (e.g., colon and breast cancers) decrease.
  • Exercise and physical activity lower blood pressure, enhance Insulin sensitivity and play an important role in weight management.
  • Preserves bone mass and reduces the risk of falling in older adults.
  • It also prevents and improves in mild to moderate, depressive disorders and anxiety, enhances feeling of “energy”, quality of life and cognitive function.


So, how much physical activity is needed?

An energy expenditure of approximately 1000 kcal per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or about 150 minutes per week is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and premature mortality.

This is the same as engaging in moderate-intensity cardio respiratory exercise training 5 days a week or more during at least 30 minutes (150min/week). If the intensity of the exercise is higher, engaging in vigorous-intensity cardio respiratory exercise training for 20minutes per session or more, on at least 3 days a week will suffice.

But this is NOT enough to pursue our goals! It is recommended for adults to engage in 2 or 3 sessions per week of resistance training exercise for each of the major muscle groups and neuromotor exercise involving balance, agility and coordination.

In order to maintain joint range of movement, completing a series of flexibility exercise for each of the major muscle-tendon group (a total of 60 seconds per exercise) on 2 or more days per week is also recommended.

If you have a pedometer or wear a Fitbit device or similar, between 8.000 and 10.000 steps a day is a good reference of your physical activity levels. Remember that in this particular: “Some is good, but more is better”.

If you are just starting, and these recommendations are maybe too much to start with, engaging in amounts of exercise under the outlined here are still beneficial. The most important thing is to reduce the total time engaged in sedentary behaviours like watching TV, stayed seated for long periods of time or even avoid exercise and physical activity at all.

Frequent, short bouts of standing and physical activity between periods of sedentary activity is recommended.

Exercise programs should be designed by a professional, and should take into consideration individual’s habitual physical activity, physical function, health status, exercise responses and stated goals. As in any dietetic consultation, EACH patient is unique, and a tailored program should be recommended.




** This information comes from the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand (2011), Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardio respiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise, DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb