How Much Exercise Do You Actually Need?

If you’re short on time or just hate exercise, here’s the bare minimum recommended amount of exercise you should be doing on a daily and weekly basis.

When it comes to exercise there are generally two camps: those who love it and those who hate it. If you’re the latter, you’ve probably caught yourself asking, “how much exercise do I actually need?”, AKA what’s the bare minimum I need to do to stay healthy 😉 Well we’ve got the answer…although it might not be what you’d hoped.

Alarmingly, statistics reveal that almost half of New Zealanders aren’t managing to meet the guidelines of 30 minutes daily physical activity.

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How much exercise is enough?

New Zealand government guidelines recommend being active on most, preferably all, days, and accumulating two and a half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity, like fast walking or cycling each week. However, you may need to do more to lose weight. Don’t have 30 minutes to spare? Try breaking up your workout into 10-minute blocks.

Practical tips for the ‘non-exerciser’

1. Start small

If you are new to exercise, start off by doing short workout sessions. Just 10 minutes is enough to gain benefits. As your fitness improves, gradually increase the minutes. There’s lots of online workouts and fitness apps you can use for any easy home workout.

Aim to exercise at a moderate intensity. This means you should still be able to talk while you exercise, without becoming breathless.

2. Balance is key

To become stronger and fitter you need to push your body out of its comfort zone while allowing plenty of time for rest and recuperation. All workouts stress the body so maintaining a balance between training and recovery is the secret. A rest day is important because it’s when the body goes into repair mode and as your body tissues – from your muscles and bones to heart and lungs – recover, they become slightly fitter than they were before and you won’t suffer as much damage next time.

3. Give it time

Your muscles need a day or two to properly repair and rebuild. When you don’t allow your body enough time you can end up with tissue breakdown rather than rebuilding and strengthening. For instance, it’s recommended that weight trainers never work the same muscle groups two days in a row.

4. Drink up

We’re not suggesting you go out for a beer after exercise but drinking plenty of water after a session is an easy way to boost recovery and get more out of workouts. Think of all that sweating you do at the gym – it stands to reason that you need to replenish your body so it can go to work on repairing and rebuilding tissues. Wondering how much water you should drink every day? The recommended intake for women is 2.7 litres per day and that doesn’t account for perspiration!

5. Eat

Plenty of healthy foods, that is. Giving your body the fuel it needs to recover will mean you’re in good shape for the next physical challenge. The best foods to eat before exercising include quality protein like meat, fish and eggs, and healthy carbs like vegetables and wholegrains.

6. Stretch

After a tough workout, consider gentle stretching. This is a form of active recovery and a simple and fast way to relieve muscle pain after exercise.

7. Massage

It’s not only a treat for the senses, massage will also put you in the relaxation zone and improve circulation so your body can get what it needs from the drinks and food you ingest. Try self-massage if cost and time are an issue. A foam roller is a great way to relieve muscle pain and tension too. Your physiotherapist can advise which one is best for you.

8. Sleep more

For anyone who exercises regularly, quality sleep is hugely important. During sleep, your body goes to work, doing everything from repairing torn muscle tissues to regulating hormone levels. The Sleep Health Foundation says sleep needs vary from person to person, but seven to nine hours on most nights is recommended. If you struggle to get eight hours shut-eye, regular exercise can also help to get a good night’s sleep.

Reap the rewards

Below are just a few of the health benefits of exercise for mind and body.

Less stress

Instead of unwinding with a wine after a hard day, try breaking a sweat – exercise is an effective and positive way to manage stress. Feel-good hormones called endorphins, which are released when we exert energy, are what get us up and moving but there’s a flow-on effect. Endorphins help to kill negativity and think m ore positively, while reducing acute stress and tension. Some form of exercise (even small) should be a daily self care habit for reducing stress. Ideally exercise outside, research has found nature can help to reduce stress.

Healthy heart

Regular exercise improves factors linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation. Health scientists have described exercise as an insurance policy for the short- and long-term protection of your heart.

Better sleep

Researchers at John Hopkins University point to exercise as a way to help you fall asleep more quickly and to improve sleep quality. The effects of aerobic exercise on sleep have been shown to be similar to those of sleeping pills. Experts often recommend exercise to insomniacs for this reason.

Clearer mind

A study programme of 24 weeks of moderate aerobic exercise improved cognitive function, including concentration, in older people.

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