How much exercise you SHOULD be getting - do you measure up?

It can be hard to know how much physical activity you should be getting - after all, the guidelines in different countries can vary somewhat. Whilst there's no hard and fast rule, and we recommend you exercise at a level that's comfortable for you at all times, it's helpful to know what the recommended guidelines for physical activity are and apply them to your daily life. We're always of the belief that knowledge is power, so we decided to find out how much physical activity is recommended here in the UK, and across the pond in the USA.

UK guidelines

If you are aged 19 to 64 then the guidelines recommend that you do two different types of physical activity every week:

You should try to be active on a daily basis to stay healthy, whether that means going for a fast walk on your lunchbreak, cycling to work or even doing some gardening. The guidelines recommend the following:

  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week - these exercises should work all your major muscle groups (abdomen, back. chest, legs, hips, arms and shoulders)
  • At least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity - this could include activities such as fast walking or cycling


  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
  • 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as a game of singles tennis or running


  • A combo of vigorous and moderate intensity aerobic activity each week - e.g. 30 minutes of fast walking and 2 x 30 minute runs
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week

So how do you know if you're getting enough exercise to meet the recommended guidelines? Remember that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is roughly the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, so if you're really busy, you might want to go for a run instead of a walk, as you'll need to spend less time exercising!

You don't need to do your whole week's workout in one go though. Try dividing your activity into shorter sessions, such as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. And mix things up a little - there are plenty of activities to try at home, at the park or at the gym, and you're less likely to get bored if you take part in a variety of activities!

What counts as moderate and vigorous aerobic activity?

We know it can be a bit confusing figuring out what's classed as 'moderate' or 'vigorous' aerobic activity, but we're here to fill you in.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity makes your heart beat faster and makes you feel warmer. You should still be able to talk but struggle to sing the words to your favourite song!

Moderate-intensity activities include:

  • A fast walk
  • Riding a bike (on flat ground)
  • Hiking
  • Gardening - e.g. pushing lawnmower
  • Basketball
  • Rollerblading
  • Volleyball
  • Doubles tennis
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity will leave your heart rate elevated and you should be breathing hard and fast.

Vigorous-intensity activities include:

  • Running/jogging
  • Riding a bike up hill or fast
  • Fast swimming
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Rugby
  • Singles tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Aerobics
  • Martial arts

What counts as muscle-strengthening activity?

The following activities help to strengthen your muscles and keep you strong, fit and healthy, so you should aim to do these types of activities on at least 2 days per week, according to UK guidelines:

  • Resistance band workouts
  • Lifting weights
  • Bodyweight exercises such as squats and push-ups
  • Yoga
  • Heavy gardening such as shovelling

You should aim to complete at least one set of 8 to 12 reps for each activity that you do - don't stop until you feel as though you are struggling to complete another rep. It's up to you whether you do your strength workouts on the same day as your aerobic activity or do them on separate days.

US guidelines

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (1) outlines how much exercise adults in the US should be getting, and the guidelines are pretty much exactly the same as our ones here in the UK! Similar to the UK, inactivity and long periods of sitting are not recommended, and a little physical activity is better than none.

In order to enjoy substantial health benefits, the US guidelines recommend:

  • Adults take at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity or 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week which work all the major muscle groups

Following the guidelines

You don't need to follow these guidelines to the letter, but it helps to bear them in mind, particularly if you are new to fitness or recovering from an illness or injury. Remember that you should always:

  • Choose a physical activity suitable for your current level of fitness and your health and fitness goals
  • Start slowly and increase physical activity intensity and duration gradually over time, especially if you're a fitness beginner
  • Choose appropriate sports equipment and gear to protect yourself
  • See your GP if you have a chronic health condition, are pregnant or extremely unfit, before starting any activity

And remember that even a little activity is better than none - so if you have the opportunity for a 30 minute session at the gym, some morning yoga or a jog around the block after work, make the most of it!

READ THIS NEXT: Move for 30 minutes a day and turbo charge your life!

Works cited:


Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 29th Apr 2015 at 11:06

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