How much should I exercise? Most people are faced with the “Goldilocks problem”, that is, the right balance of exercise for optimum health benefits. Fitness experts and doctors debate just how much exercise is too little, too much or just the right amount to improve health and longevity.
Unlike a fixed framework that exists for both food and medicine, exercise can seldom be “Rx’d”. There still are no fixed parameters and dosages for exercise for each age group or health goals. What we do have is a “minimum” recommendation across all age groups from health bodies like WHO and the American Heart Association.
Currently, health agencies recommend a “minimum” of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day for five days a week, or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to build and maintain health and fitness.
Researchers who continue their efforts to solve the Goldilocks problem have come up with two new, large-scale studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine that helps answer the questions on how much exercise is ideal. These studies suggest that while the ideal dose of exercise for a long life is more than many currently believe we should get, it is less than many of us might expect.
The studies also found that prolonged or intense exercise is unlikely to be harmful and could add years to people’s lives.
One of the studies was a prospective cohort study done in Australia from 2006 to 2014. The effect of moderate to vigorous activity on mortality was studied in adults between age groups of 45 and 75 years for six years.
The results found an inverse dose response relationship between vigorous activity and mortality, i.e., the more the intensity or duration of exercise, the lesser the risk of dying. And more importantly, this relationship was consistent in all age groups, all categories of body mass index and in those with preexisting cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
The other study conducted in the National Cancer Institute, Harvard University and other institutions studied the people’s exercise habits of more than 661,000 adults, most of them middle-aged and the mortality rates from the death records of this group.
The results of this study highlighted the following:
- Those who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death.
- Those who did “some” exercise (not meeting the minimum recommendations of 30 minutes per day), lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.
- People who met the recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, had 31 percent less risk of dying and enjoyed greater health benefits.
- The best finding was that those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, and exercised for 450 minutes per week (more than one hour per day) were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.
However, more the merrier is not necessarily the mantra here. Exercising more than 450 minutes per week, offered the same benefits as meeting the 30 minutes per day recommendation! While too much is not good, achieving more than an hour per day is definitely the way to go!