What is the Recommended Amount of Exercise?

So your doctor says that you need to get more exercise…..Well how much exercise will make a difference? Should you be exercising everyday, every other day, once a week, for ten minutes, fifty minutes, or two hours?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that the average American get 150 minutes of moderate activity total  (five days a week or more), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (three days a week or more).  A combination of moderate and vigorous activity can also be used.  They also recommend that the duration of exercise be no less than ten minutes of continuous activity to gain maximum benefit from the activity.

How can I fit exercise in?

One of the easiest physical activities to begin is a walking program.  It only requires a supportive pair of shoes and a place to walk.  Walking at a moderate pace (about 3 mph) counts as moderate activity, while walking at a very fast pace (4.5 mph or greater) would count as vigorous activity.  Running is another exercise that can be done with little equipment, and counts as a vigorous activity.  You may even consider signing up for a race or walk to motivate yourself to get out and train (plus you usually get a shirt for signing up!)

Many sports can also be used to increase your minutes.  Golf (with no cart), ballroom dancing, shooting a basketball around, and doubles tennis can all be considered moderate activities.  While soccer, basketball (game), cross-country skiing, swimming and singles tennis can be considered vigorous activity.  The important things to remember are to stay safe, and find something that you enjoy.  If you enjoy doing your physical activity, you will be much more likely to stick with it in the long run, so get creative and find an activity that works for you.

Even small amounts of exercise can be beneficial even if it does not meet the recommended volume.  So even if you are not able to complete the recommended amount, just try to get moving and work your way up to the recommendations.  It is also important to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any medical conditions.


Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., … & Swain, D. P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise43(7), 1334-1359.

Pescatello, L. S. (2014). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.