How Much Exercise Is Right

When it comes to exercise it is important to remember one simple fact - any exercise at all is better than none. You don’t have to train for the Olympics or spend hours each day in the gym to get fitter, feel healthier in mind and body, and keep your weight under control. Many doctors now in fact believe that regular, mild to moderate physical activity is, for most people, the best way to better health. However, always remember to do something you enjoy so that you are more likely to stick at it!

How much exercise should I do?

Adults should aim to try to do a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week. The good news is that you don't have to do the whole 30 minutes in one go since it’s the total amount that matters.  This can be spread throughout the day or in three ten-minute bursts of activity – it’s your choice. Your activity can be what is called a 'lifestyle activity', such as walking the dog, or digging the garden - or it could be structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these. Always aim to do a level of activity that makes you slightly breathless (but able to hold down a conversation), or a little warm, or both. If you suffer from certain medical problems such as  obesity, or  diabetes,  try to do 45-60 minutes of exercise  five times a week.

Should I do mild, moderate or hard exercise?

What constitutes a hard, moderate or mild exercise workout for you will depend on your current level of fitness, but even if you are starting off your exercise as someone who is unfit, then mild to moderate levels of physical activity should be all that is needed. As a general rule, taking moderate exercise will make you a little warm or sweaty, and slightly out of breath, but no more than that.

Common sense rules

There would be no use  in starting to exercise if you injured yourself on the first day so always start slowly. If you haven't done much exercise for some time, then slowly build up to the recommended activity level over a few weeks. This might mean starting with a walk of just five minutes or stopping for breaks regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for advice here if you’ve had health problems in the past - it doesn’t mean that you can't exercise. However, it may be the case that you may have to build up your exercise levels more gradually than other people, so always get medical advice first.

Pregnant women should also take medical advice about exercising. Exercising during pregnancy can be excellent for posture, and strengthening your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, but there are also signs that mean you should consult a doctor first, such as bleeding, headaches or nausea, if you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, or have had more than one miscarriage. Eat sensibly. Often when we talk about a sensible diet, we mean eating a little less, but once you start exercising there's also the danger of eating too little and having too little energy. We all need a healthy, balanced diet that contains the right vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins, but if you're exercising you're burning energy so you need to make sure you have enough to keep you going through your exercise.

Drink enough fluid. During exercise our bodies get hot, and our main way of cooling down is to sweat, which means we lose fluid. On average, we lose one litre of fluid for every hour we exercise. The longer and harder you work, the more you'll lose and there's no way to be exact about how much you should drink. Try to drink 300ml to 500ml of fluid in the 15 minutes before your workout, then about 150ml to 250ml every 15 minutes during exercise. For moderate exercise of about half an hour, water is fine – for longer, more strenuous workouts, specialist sports drinks may be better.

Warm up and stretch. Again, this is more important the longer and harder your planned exercise is, but it's a good habit to get into if you want to prevent injuries, such as pulled muscles. Remember - any physical activity, no matter how little, is better than none!