How much exercise do you need?

We’ve talked already about how doing regular exercise can not only help to keep you in check physically, but also have great benefits for your mental health, but just how much exercise should you be doing to reap the rewards?

How much exercise is needed

The answer to this question can vary a lot depending on who is asking it! To work out how much exercise is right for you the main thing to consider is what your goals are. Are you looking to lose or maintain your weight through regular exercise? Are you training for a sporting event? Perhaps you just want to be a little more active in your day to day life – and that’s ok too!

How much exercise do you need to do to lose weight?

If you want to use exercise as a means to lose weight, you essentially need to be moving enough to be in a calorie deficit, which means that you need to be burning more calories than you are taking in. Cardiovascular exercise such as running, cycling and swimming is the most efficient way to burn calories with running burning around 10-14 calories per minute for example.

So how much exercise would you need to do each week to lose weight? If we consider the fact that you need to burn 3500 calories to lose 1lb in weight, that works out at needing to do enough exercise to burn 500 calories per day over the space of a week to lose a pound. 

Now, you can easily burn 500 calories by doing an hour or cardio, however doing so every day is likely to lead to injury or at the very least leave you feeling quite worn out! Instead, it’s best to focus on lowering your calorie intake and combining this with exercise rather than relying solely on exercise to lose weight. If you were to reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories per day, you would then only need to do 5 workouts per week each burning 350 calories, which is much more attainable. Workouts that burn around 350 calories include an hour walking, 30 minutes of running or 30-40 minutes of cycling.

How much exercise should I do to train for an event?

Again, the answer to this will depend on a few things, such as the type of event you are training for, your current fitness level and how much you already exercise. If you are going from being fairly inactive to running a marathon for example, there will be a fairly long period of adjustment for your body to get used to the amount and intensity of training required to run that distance, so you may start off training 3 or 4 times a week and eventually be training 5 or 6 days at a greater intensity.

The best way to train for an event whilst avoiding injury is to follow a structured training plan based on your current experience level for that particular sport. This way you can make sure you are doing the amount of exercise necessary to complete your race in a good time, whilst safely adjusting to the increased activity and avoiding injury. It might be tempting to train every day, but remember that rest days are equally important to help your body recover.

If you are training for a running event, why not take a look at our 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon training plans?

How much exercise should I do to keep active?

As we mentioned earlier, you may just want to exercise to keep healthy and active, or just as a way of boosting your mood. The NHS recommends that we should do some kind of physical exercise at least once each day, which can include any kind of physical movement from walking to yoga or even just pushing your lawnmower around the garden. 

The exact recommendation for how much exercise we should all be doing each week is 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, such as walking or water aerobics, or 75 minutes of higher intensity activity like running or sports such as football. So just 20-30 minutes of walking each day is a great way to improve your cardiovascular and mental health.

Avoiding over exercising!

One last thing to mention is that it’s possible to over exercise too! If you are doing regular intense physical activity such as fast running, remember to give yourself rest days so that your body can recover. It’s important to warm up, cool down and stay hydrated too, this way you can avoid pains and strains such as shin splints, hip pain and knee pain.