The Minimum Amount of Exercise to Stay Healthy

Sometimes you have to be realistic, sometimes you can’t fit in 2 hours + of exercise a day, 7 days a week. So what is the minimum you can do but still be healthy? I had a look at the recommended amount of exercise you need to do.

Number of steps per day

Group Walking_cropped

If you are using a pedometer 10,000 steps a day is considered “active” so you should aim to complete this number of steps a day. If you want to push yourself 12,500 steps a day is classified as “highly active”

How long you sit for

Lara Stone in W August 2009 2

There has been a lot of news recently focusing on the negative impact sitting for long periods of time has on your body, even if you exercise regularly this doesn’t counteract the adverse effects, luckily this can be remedied if you just stand up for 1 minute every 30 minutes. It’s probably best to set a reoccurring alarm to remind yourself to take a break from sitting.


According to the NHS Physical Activity Guidelines this is what you should be doing:

Physical activity for adults aged 19-64

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do:

At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate- intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week


muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a
week that work all major muscle groups (legs,
hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).




75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week,


muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a
week that work all major muscle groups (legs,
hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).



An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week (for example 2 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking)


muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


What counts as moderate-intensity aerobic activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:

  • walking fast
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • volleyball
  • basketball

5 x 30 minutes

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly aerobic activity is to do 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

Moderate-intensity activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song.

What counts as vigorous-intensity aerobic activity?

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most people include:

  • jogging or running
  • swimming fast
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • singles tennis
  • football
  • rugby
  • skipping rope
  • hockey
  • aerobics
  • gymnastics
  • martial arts

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

What counts as muscle-strengthening activity?

Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is 1 complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions.

For each activity, try to do 8 to 12 repetitions in each set. Try to do at least 1 set of each muscle-strengthening activity. You’ll get even more benefits if you do 2 or 3 sets.

To get health benefits from muscle-strengthening activities, you should do them to the point where you struggle to complete another repetition.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • yoga

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same day or on different days as your aerobic activity, whatever’s best for you.

However, muscle-strengthening activities don’t count towards your aerobic activity total, so you’ll need to do them in addition to your aerobic activity.

Some vigorous-intensity aerobic activities may provide 75 minutes of aerobic activity and sufficient muscle-strengthening activity. Examples include circuit training and sports such as football or rugby.


With this in mind my goal for the minimum I do a week is as follows:

  • Stand every 30 minutes
  • 10,000 steps a day
  • Strengthening eg Tracy Anderson Method, Pilates, Yoga 4X a week
  • 30 minutes of cardio 5X a week

What do you think? Were you aware of what the recommended amount of activity you need to do to be healthy? Were there any surprises? Do you stick to this?

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