Two and half hours a week of moderate intensity exercise is what is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Ideally, this means 30 minutes, five times per week, of activities such as jogging, ballroom dancing, biking or swimming. Moderate intensity means you’re working in the intermediate zone. If you’re able to hold a conversation with the person next to you while doing that activity, you’re in the zone.
If you don’t have time for five workouts per week, recent evidence in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that cramming 150 minutes into the weekend, the so-called “weekend warrior” model, transfers similar health benefits to spreading out fitness across the week. The only risk here is overuse injury, such as a case of Achilles tendinitis from running 10 miles on a Saturday after not doing any exercise all week.
If you’re time crunched, intensity matters
Newer evidence about high intensity workouts known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), shows that intensity minutes reduce required exercise time by almost half. This means if you’d like 30 minutes of exercise but you only have 15 to spare, you’re in luck. As I’ve outlined in my book “The Workout Prescription,” ramping up intensity minutes reduces time requirements, and is safe for anyone.
Unlike moderate intensity, high intensity exercise means you’re huffing and puffing and conversation is difficult. Although they’re tough, HIIT workouts don’t have to be fancy. They can be set up anywhere, a living room, a garage, or a basement. All that’s needed is an open space, a light set of dumbbells, and a strong dose of motivation.
HIIT programs are generally safe for all ages but we generally recommend touching base with your physician if you’re over 40 and haven’t been previously active before starting this type of program.