What is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?

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by Casey McIlvaine

Every personal trainer gets the question from people about what is the ideal amount of exercise. While there is no universally correct answer, there have been two recent studies that provide scientific evidence that there is clearly too little exercise and the diminishing returns that can be gained by going overboard.

According to the current CDC physical activity guidelines, they suggest 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to build and maintain health and fitness. The ongoing questions for most people are: what constitutes moderate exercise; is this suggestion the minimum; and if so, what is the ideal amount. As every certified trainer knows, the answers are highly dependent on the individual as well as their health goals, but two new recent studies have shed more light on the subjects.

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The first study utilized health survey data from more than 661,000 middle-aged adults. The survey divided the groups into those that did not exercise at all during each week, those that met the CDC guidelines, and those that exceeded the guidelines by a factor of ten. The non-exercise group had the highest risk for premature death while those that exercised a little lowered their risk by 20 percent.

The group that met the guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise had 31 percent less risk of dying prematurely. The study showed that the people that tripled the recommended weekly workout time to 450 minutes were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than those that never exercised. Those that did ten times the recommended amount did not significantly increase their longevity or diminish it with the extra effort.

The other new study of exercise and mortality showed similar results. As any experienced personal trainer could likely tell you, the takeaway from these studies is that the amount and types of exercise that are ideal for any individual is dependent on the individual and a host of other factors. What we can broadly say about everyone is that the more time we spend moving rather than sitting, the better off we are in terms of our health.

There is such a thing as an ideal amount of exercise for an individual, but it requires a health assessment from a medical professional in concert with the development of a fitness plan that is tailored to the individual. While it is possible for an individual to conceivably do this correctly for themselves, the necessary accumulated knowledge and experience needed will put them at the knowledge level of a certified personal trainer.

As a personal trainer, it is always good advice to tell clients to keep moving as much as possible within the limits that are set by their current health and their physician. Beyond that, an ideal amount of exercise can best be attained in partnership with a personal trainer that understands their health, nutrition and most of all, their fitness goals. Together it is possible for trainer and client to find the happy medium that allows them to optimize their health so that they can live life to the fullest.

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