Getting Healthier On 30 Minutes of Exercise a Day

Just a Half Hour of Moderate Activity Is Plenty For Most People

Woman Exercising at Home
Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

You know exercise is important for your health, well-being, and even longevity. But does this mean you need to log hours and hours of sweaty activity to see your efforts pay off? In a word (or two), probably not.

If you're a beginner, just 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week could be all it takes for you to reap the many benefits of exercise, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Read on to learn more about what kind of exercise and how much is enough to help you get fit, stay healthy, and lose weight.

How It Adds Up

To be exact, adults can get most of the payoffs of exercise by doing a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity at a moderate pace each week, according to the ODPHP. If that sounds like a huge commitment, look at it this way: 150 minutes is the equivalent of two hours and 30 minutes, which further breaks down to a half hour of exercise five days a week.

Research suggests that really is plenty, and may even be more than enough. Consider this 2012 study published in The American Journal of Physiology looking at the effects of different amounts of exercise on weight loss. It found that sedentary, overweight men who exercised for half an hour a day lost about the same amount of weight after three months as men who worked out for an hour a day—even though the hour-long exercisers burned more calories.

And although weight loss is only one parameter of improving health and well-being, it's an important one: For someone who's carrying around excess pounds, trimming down is vital for preventing problems associated with being overweight, such as diabetes and stress on joints.

The researchers suspect one reason the men who exercised for a half hour lost just as much weight may have been because the ones who worked out for an hour felt they could eat more and rest more between bouts of activity.

This can be a common and frustrating problem for new exercisers, causing them to either see no results at all or even gain weight because they feel free to eat more than usual.

What a 30-Minute Workout Looks Like

Researchers suggest that 30 minutes of moderate activity may be especially doable for beginners not only because such workouts are shorter and less vigorous, but also because they won't totally deplete a person's energy stores. 

Here are some examples of moderate activity recommended by the ODPHP:

  • Brisk walking (at a pace of about three miles per hour or faster—but not race walking)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling at less than 10 miles per hour
  • Doubles tennis
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Gardening

Keep in mind that these are aerobic activities. To round out your weekly workouts, the ODPHP advises doing strength-training exercise twice a week, working all the major muscle groups. Stretching for flexibility is important too, but it won't count toward your weekly time tally. It will, however, help you stay flexible and lower your risk of injury. 

Sources:

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Physical Activity Guidelines, "Chapter 4: Active Adults." Nov 30, 2017.

M. Rosenkilde, P. L. Auerbach, M. H. Reichkendler, et al. "Body Fat Loss and Compensatory Mechanisms in Response to Different Doses of Aerobic Exercise—A Randomized Controlled Trial in Overweight Sedentary Males." Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Sep;303(6): R571-9.

Continue Reading