What's Your Physical Fitness IQ?

Decades of research has shown that regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Do you know how much exercise you need per day? Below are some basic facts about physical fitness that everyone should know.

How Much Exercise Is Recommended?

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Most national and international guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This can translate into 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week, for instance. And research has borne out the health benefits of a daily 30-minute walk: in the Nurses’ Health Study, for instance, those who walked briskly or otherwise achieved moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes every day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow up.

What counts as moderate-intensity exercise? Physical activities such as general gardening, brisk walking, ballroom dancing, and the equivalent fall into the category of moderate-intensity exercise.

Additionally, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), obtaining at least 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly can meet the minimum amount of recommended exercise. Vigorous-intensity exercise includes physical activities such as hiking uphill, bicycling at or above ten miles per hour, fast swimming, running, traditional aerobics, and heavy shoveling or ditch digging, among others.

How Much Exercise Does it Take to Maintain Weight Loss?

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Note that the guidelines above are for a minimum of what everyone who is physically able should be doing on a regular basis, regardless of weight or body mass index (BMI). However, to maintain weight loss, not only is daily physical activity a must, but most experts recommend at least 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise every day just to keep the pounds from creeping back on.

According to the Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults published in 2013 by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and The Obesity Society, comprehensive lifestyle intervention programs will typically prescribe aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes per week—which is equivalent to at least 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days of the week. To maintain lost weight or minimize long-term weight regain past a year or so, higher levels of physical activity are recommended: approximately 200 to 300 minutes per week, according to the guideline.


How Exercise Can Improve Your Life Expectancy

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Several experts have postulated that the obesity epidemic may result in a decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. However, increasing your daily physical activity can reverse that and even improve your life expectancy.

According to the American Heart Association, “for every hour of regular exercise you get, you’ll gain about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you don’t start until middle age.”

Take the Physical Fitness Quiz

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To learn more about physical fitness and test your physical fitness IQ, take the American Heart Association’s Getting Fit Quiz


Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed online at http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/ on June 12, 2014.

Chiuve SE, Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Spiegelman D, et al. Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA 2011; 306:62-69.

Donnelly JE, Smith B, Jacobsen DJ, et al. The role of exercise for weight loss and maintenance. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2004;18:1009-29.

Robertson C, Avenell A, Stewart F, et al. Clinical effectiveness of weight loss and weight maintenance interventions for men: a systematic review of men-only randomized controlled trials (The ROMEO Project). Am J Mens Health 2015 Jun 30.

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