You've heard you should exercise regularly, but you may be unclear on the specifics. Knowing why you should exercise and how much will help you make goals and stick to them.
Why Should I Exercise?
The benefits of regular exercise go beyond getting toned. Among other things, exercise:
- Brings you peace. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, chemicals that help you feel more peaceful and even help relieve depression and anxiety.
- Relaxes your body, helping you sleep better.
- Helps you unwind and provides a break from the day. For example, going on a run is often a great way to clear your mind and relax after a stressful day.
- Tones your muscles and burns calories, helping you maintain a healthy weight. Keep in mind, this is only true for moderate amounts of exercise. Exercising too much can be unhealthy and even dangerous if taken to extremes.
- Gives you energy. By increasing your physical stamina, you can do other activities without working so hard.
- Improves heart health. Exercise helps lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
- Helps you age well. Studies have found that weight bearing exercises – like running, jumping, or brisk walking – will help keep your bones strong. This is especially important for women, who are more prone to developing osteoporosis, a condition that increases the likelihood of bone fractures.
How Much Should I Exercise?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. Aerobic activity is also known as cardio. Cardio exercise makes your heart beat faster and your breathing harder.
One way to meet the two-and-a-half-hour goal is to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week. Examples of aerobic exercise include:
- Bike riding
- Brisk walking
- Canoeing or kayaking
- Martial arts
It's important to get in some muscle-strengthening activities two days per week. This type of activity is also called strength or resistance training, and often involves the use of weights or resistance bands. Sit-ups, push-ups and squats also strengthen muscles because your own body provides resistance..
When exercising, try to pick something that interests you, even if you haven't tried it before, and give it a shot. It's much easier to exercise consistently if you're doing something you enjoy.
Reviewed by: Jen Hawkins, MPH
Last reviewed: December 2019