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How Much Exercise Do I Need?

Question: I’ve never been a regular exerciser, and quite honestly, don’t relish the idea of spending a lot of time and money on exercise. What’s the least amount of exercise that will afford me some real health benefits?

Answer: Surprisingly, small amounts of physical activity, consistently performed, reap huge health benefits. This observation has been made in several large studies recently.

One of these studies included about 13,000 men and women. They were initially fitness-tested and queried about the amount of physical activity customarily done. From these data, three levels of fitness and activity emerged: “couch potatoes,” or those who were extremely sedentary; moderate exercisers who may walk a dog, leisurely stroll, garden, etc.; and vigorous exercisers who were joggers, cyclists, etc. who exerted at brisk levels.

The subjects were followed for more than 8 years and then the rate of death and incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer were compared among the groups. The moderate and vigorous activity groups experienced dramatically lower rates of death and incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer. While the vigorous exercisers reaped the most benefits, the moderate exercisers had far lower death rates and incidence of these diseases than the “couch potatoes.”

This study and others like it clearly demonstrate that you don’t need to knock yourself out in order to significantly reduce early death and disease. The moderate exercisers in this study group were generally not trying to work up a sweat and elevate their heart rates to a threshold level. They were typically just walking, gardening, and performing activities that most of us would not consider very strenuous.

In conclusion, light to moderate physical activity performed three or more times weekly for about 15 to 30 minutes does wonders for overall health. No medication can compare with the protection regular exercise provides. So, start walking, gardening, cycling, or dancing, and realize you don’t have to knock yourself out!

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