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How to Get 150 Minutes of Exercise a Week Without Going to the Gym

How to Get 150 Minutes of Exercise a Week Without Going to the Gym

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You don’t even have to put on workout clothes to meet your weekly physical activity needs.

Most health organizations say we should all be moving for at least 150 minutes per week. That number can seem daunting—finding 30 minutes to work out, five times a week, seems nearly impossible! But it turns out, you don’t have to belong to a gym or throw on special workout gear to clock in those minutes. Here’s how to do it, without taking much extra time out of your day.

Make the most of your lunch break.

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While it’s certainly easier to use our lunch breaks to scroll through Facebook, this is a golden opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with a 20-minute walk. Then you’re already two-thirds of the way through your exercise needs for the day (150 minutes/7 days= 22 minutes per day). Plus, spending time outdoors is linked with improved mental well-being. Sounds like a win-win!

Lift weights while watching your favorite TV show.

Along with engaging in 150 minutes of exercise per week, the AHA recommends adding 20 minutes of strength training twice a week. Strength training not only builds muscle, but also keeps our bones strong, improves joint flexibility, and even helps us to better manage our weight. Grab a pair of dumbells the next time you turn on the TV, and sneak in a little muscle-building workout.

Take the stairs when you can.

Research shows every little bit of exercise counts, and taking the stairs certainly gets the heart pumping! Plus, stair work builds muscle in your lower body, helping you get a little closer to your recommended two strength-training sessions per week.

Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier.

Our circadian rhythms—our bodies’ internal clocks—are essential for healthy sleep patterns, maintaining our weight, and ensuring our bodies are functioning properly. Studies show starting our day with exposure to sunlight is not only beneficial for regulating our bodies’ internal clocks but also for our health. Taking a stroll, doing a circuit workout on your porch, or stretching on a yoga mat in your backyard will not only help you clock in most of your exercise requirement for the day, but will also be a soothing, peaceful way to start a busy day.

Looking for more exercise tips?

Make plans for a workout date instead of a lunch date.

The next time you make plans with a friend, use that valuable free time to engage in physical activity together. Whether it’s a round of tennis or a walk around the park, this is a simple way to incorporate more fitness into your life without using up all your free time. And it’s always nice to have a workout buddy to hold you accountable!

Struggling to Get Back Into a Workout Routine? These 5 Strategies Could Help

B etween work commitments, family obligations and social events, it may seem daunting &mdash and downright impossible &mdash to add anything else to your plate. As a result, people tend to sacrifice the one thing they might enjoy doing the least &mdash exercise.

Perhaps it started with a busy week, and then one week turned into two and then before you knew it, you hadn&rsquot visited the gym in a series of months. Whatever the culprit, there are ways to pull yourself out of a workout rut and create a lasting routine.

Here, health and wellness experts provide five strategies that will get you back on track.

Myth 1: It’s normal to exercise

Whenever you move to do anything, you’re engaging in physical activity. In contrast, exercise is voluntary physical activity undertaken for the sake of fitness. You may think exercise is normal, but it’s a very modern behaviour. Instead, for millions of years, humans were physically active for only two reasons: when it was necessary or rewarding. Necessary physical activities included getting food and doing other things to survive. Rewarding activities included playing, dancing or training to have fun or to develop skills. But no one in the stone age ever went for a five-mile jog to stave off decrepitude, or lifted weights whose sole purpose was to be lifted.

Exercise Types

Exercise that gets the heart pumping and the blood circulating, thereby building endurance or "staying power," is the core focus of any exercise program. Walking, hiking dancing, bike riding and swimming offer seniors a good moderate workout so, work in the garden, rake leaves and push a lawn mower. A balanced exercise program also needs to build muscle by working all major muscle groups -- doing physical labor, lifting weights and practicing yoga or other body-weight resistance work -- to help counteract age-related muscle loss. In addition, stretching exercises, to maintain flexibility, and balance exercises help seniors stay active and injury-free.

Deck Those Halls

Holiday decorating and housecleaning can also help compensate for some holiday dinner sins. A sweaty hour of climbing up and down ladders and hoisting strings of lights and garlands of green fits in the moderate activity category -- so there's another 250 calories. Now, if you're willing to head out and chop your own tree down at the local tree farm, that counts as "vigorous exercise," burning 7 calories or more per minute, Jordan says. So that half hour of hacking away at the Douglas fir and dragging it to your car burns at least 210 calories. If you can't chop the tree down yourself, at least amp up your walking during the tree search by making it a challenge: stride around the lot with the kids, scouring it for the perfect tree.

Most housecleaning, Jordan says, fits the "light activity" category and only burns a few calories an hour. But it adds up, and if you're moving furniture to get at those often-neglected areas that only get cleaned when family comes to visit, you're exercising more vigorously. Half an hour of hauling the furniture around to clean the corners or make room for the tree nets you about 210 calories burned.

Outdoor chores around the holidays can really make a dent in your calorie overload. Shoveling the sidewalk burns about 350 calories in just a half hour, while an hour of raking leaves takes off 200 calories. "Don't get the kid next door to do it or use the snow blower or leaf blower," says Jordan. "Pace yourself --don't let a foot of snow stack up on you. Shovel it once you've got three inches on the ground, and go out again after another three inches."

Once your own house sparkles with holiday cheer, many people like to take the kids out to ooh and aah over the lights and decorations around town. Here's a novel idea: walk. "Bundle the kids up and walk around the neighborhood to see the decorations," says Henson. "So often we're in the car, confined, driving around to look at Christmas lights. It's great to get out and move, and you'll get a better view."


How much physical activity do adults need?

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2 nd edition, adults need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve their health&ndashaerobic activity and muscle strengthening.

We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but it&rsquos not. That could be 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don&rsquot have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. Learn more about finding a balance that works for you.

Find out how exercise can support physical and mental health from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2 nd edition pdf icon external icon . [PDF-15.2MB]

Move More and Sit Less

Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity gain some health benefits.

Want to learn more about important health benefits for adults? Check out the Move Your Way SM Factsheet for Adults pdf icon external icon [PDF-502KB].

Recommended Levels For Health Benefits

Adults should follow the exercises as specified in the following options. Check out this print-friendly age chart for a quick snapshot of the recommended amount of weekly activity for adults.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

(e.g., brisk walking) for 150 minutes every week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week)

on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

(e.g., jogging or running) for 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) every week

on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

For Even Greater Health Benefits

If you go beyond 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity or an equivalent combination, you&rsquoll gain even more health benefits.

Aerobic activity or &ldquocardio&rdquo gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to walking or biking to the store &ndash these types of activities and more count. As long as you&rsquore doing aerobic physical activities at a moderate- or vigorous-intensity, they count toward meeting the aerobic guideline.

Intensity is how hard your body is working during a physical activity.

Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity means you&rsquore working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if it&rsquos a moderate-intensity aerobic activity is that you&rsquoll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:

  • Walking fast
  • Doing water aerobics
  • Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawn mower

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you&rsquore breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. You may use the Talk Test to gauge the intensity of your aerobic physical activity. If you&rsquore being active at a vigorous level, you won&rsquot be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Here are some examples of activities that require vigorous effort:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Riding a bike fast or on hills
  • Playing singles tennis
  • Playing basketball

If you are doing moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking or hiking, you can talk, but not sing during the activity.

Build Up Over Time
If you want to do more vigorous-level activities, slowly replace those that take moderate effort like brisk walking with more vigorous activities like jogging. Learn more about getting started with physical activity to improve health.

You can do moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mix of the two, each week. A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

Some people like to do vigorous activity because it gives them about the same health benefits in half the time. If you haven&rsquot been very active lately, however, increase your physical activity level slowly. If you have a history of a chronic disease, consider telling your doctor you are planning to increase your physical activity, including moving to more vigorous activity. You need to feel comfortable doing moderate-intensity activities before you move on to more vigorous ones. Learn more about additional types of physical activity pdf icon external icon that are right for you.

Want more tips on how you can add a variety of activities to your life? Check this out.

Physical activities to strengthen your muscles are recommended at least 2 days a week. Activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body&mdashlegs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done in addition to your aerobic activity.

To gain health benefits, you need to do muscle-strengthening activities to the point where it&rsquos hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8-12 repetitions per activity, which counts as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities. To gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity&mdashwhatever works best for you.
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it&rsquos at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:

How Much Exercise?

As you get older, you may be a bit afraid of exercise. Maybe you think you might hurt yourself or that you have to join a gym. Or you may not be sure what exercises you should do.

The key isn't how or where you get active, it's just to start moving.

Healthy adults should aim for 150 minutes of activity that gets your heart going and your blood pumping every week. Sure, you can do that in exercise classes. But you can also get it by brisk walking. It's also important to do movements that work all your major muscles at least 2 days a week. Also try to do flexibility exercises 2 or 3 days a week to help with your range of motion.

While 150 minutes may sound like a lot, you don't have to do it in big chunks. You can take a 10-minute walk around the block or spend 10 minutes sweeping the porch. It all adds up.

If you’re feeling energetic, you'll get even more health benefits if you work up to 300 minutes or more of exercise a week.

But a simple goal is to try to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. You may be able to do that some weeks and not others. Remember, it's a goal and not a rule. Do what works for you.


Where did 10,000 steps a day come from?

The 10,000-step recommendation has been mainstream for some time, but have you ever wondered where it originally came from? While you might expect the recommendation emerged from a medical source or government health agency, it turns out that's not the case at all.

At a recent talk at the fitness industry event, Movement by Michelob Ultra in Austin, sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl called out that the 10,000 steps number is arbitrary. The number has roots that you can trace back to a Japanese walking club that adopted the term as part of a marketing slogan.

A JAMA Internal Medicine article also points out that there is "limited scientific basis" to back up the claim that taking 10,000 steps a day is necessary for health. But the study did find that the participants who took more steps per day (over a four-year period) had a lower mortality rate than those who took fewer steps.

The results

At the beginning and end of the experiment we tested the participants&rsquo leg strength and power, handgrip strength, and we also used an ultrasound to measure the size of their thigh muscles.

The difference between &lsquostrength&rsquo and &lsquopower&rsquo is that strength only measures how much force can be exerted, whereas power also includes how quickly it can be applied.

  • Thigh muscle cross-sectional area was 57.5cm³ before and 59.0cm³ after (an increase of 3%).
  • Thigh muscle thickness was 25.0cm³ before and 25.5cm³ after (an increase of 2%)
  • Leg strength was 152.7 newton-metres before and 170.8 newton-metres after (an increase of 12%)
  • Leg power was 277.1 watts before and 320.3 after (an increase of 13%).
  • Handgrip strength was 35.5kg before and 36.5kg after (an increase of 4%).

All of these increases were significant &ndash and a surprise to everyone involved with the study!

The takeaway: Move more, with more intensity, and sit less.

Science has linked being inactive and sitting too much with higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and lung cancers, and early death.

It&rsquos clear that being more active benefits everyone and helps us live longer, healthier lives.

Here are some of the big wins:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer&rsquos, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Improved cognition, including memory, attention and processing speed
  • Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being

So what are you waiting for? Let&rsquos get moving!

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.


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