7, 15, 30, or 60 Minutes of Exercise?
A very common question is “How much exercise is enough?” The answer which many people won’t like is “It depends.” To give a better answer, you have to answer questions such as: What kind of condition are you currently in? Why are you exercising? What are your goals? How much exercising have you been doing? What kind of exercising have you done in the past? How much time do you have? Do you have any health issues? What level of intensity do you want to exercise at?
An Olympic level wrestler will probably train as much as four hours a day. Weight training, running, yoga, on the mat training, mental training, video review, plus other activities can all add up easily to four hours, with half of that being physical training. However, a person who has been sedentary for the last 20 years will physically have a hard time just getting seven minutes done.
Are you a male, over 45, morbidly obese, with a heavy drinking habit, and smoke 2 packs a day? If so, anything you do needs to be supervised by a doctor because you are in prime heart attack country. Are you an average person, in not too bad shape, and only a little overweight? Then you can do some moderate intensity exercising. Are you young, just out of competitive sports, and still in pretty good shape, then you can do some high intensity workouts.
Your current physical condition dictates what level of exercise you can hope to accomplish.
What you want to accomplish dictate how you exercise. Exercise duration and intensity dictate which energy system you target, as well as affecting hormonal levels and have different cardiovascular effects. All of those contribute to weight loss in different ways and affect what kind of health effects you receive. So, if your goal is to simply lose weight anything will do as long as it burns the amount of calories you need it to burn.
By understanding the energy systems of the body, how to exercise them, and matching that information with how much time you have each day to exercise, can help determine the optimum energy system to hit. If all you have is only 7 minutes a day in your schedule, then you want to do 7 minutes of the highest intensity HIIT you can do. On the other hand, if you have a spare hour, you can go for an hour long walk.
Energy Systems of the Body
The body uses energy differently depending on duration and intensity of the activity.
1. ATP-PC: short and intense movement lasting less than 10 seconds, the body mainly uses the ATP-PC. Think sprinters or power lifters.
2. Lactic Acid (aka Anaerobic): high-intensity muscle activity lasting from 10 seconds to just a few minutes. Think hockey players or 400 metre sprinters.
3. Aerobic: energy for body movement lasting more than just a few minutes, such as long periods of work or endurance activities. Think 1600 metre runners or soccer players.
Short all out bursts of high intensity activity that last no more than 10 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest will hit the ATP-PC energy system. Optimum results happen with a half hour of this level of activity, but positive results will occur with only 7 minutes. You can build up to a half hour from 7 minutes if you are starting out.
Slightly longer bursts of activity, of 30 seconds to a minute of moderately intense activity followed by 30 seconds to a minute of rest, hits the anaerobic energy system. If you can start at 15 minutes of this and build to 30 minutes you will be doing well.
Longer periods (3 to 5 minutes) of low intensity (jogging or fast walking) followed by shorter rest period (1 to 4 minutes) and lasting a half hour hits the aerobic energy system. Start at 15 minutes and move up to a half hour.
Studies have shown that three days a week is the sweet spot between maximum gains and minimal risk of injury. You can do more, but you also raise the risk for injury, and you only get marginal gains with that risk. If your chosen activity is low impact and low intensity, then you can exercise more days per week. Alternatively, you can mix low intensity days in between high intensity days.
Do you have access to a full gym, or just a pair of shoes? Do have a few pieces of cardio equipment in a few square feet of your own home? Pretty much, the only requirements for exercise are good shoes and loose fitting clothes, and some people even get away without shoes.
If you have little to no money, you can do everything you need in your own home with no equipment. You can run in place, do rapid foot fires, fast jumping jacks, and burpees. You can do them fast or do them slow. You can do push ups, sit-ups, and squats in your own home. You can do them fast or slow as well. The goal is to use as many of your muscles as you can, for the time period you can accomplish, at the intensity level required as determined by your time allotment. If you have access to a gym, then by all means utilize it.
Before You Start
Two things are important to understand before starting any exercise routine. First, see a doctor before you start, especially if you are very overweight. Make sure you are healthy enough to start exercising, otherwise, you risk injury or a heart attack. Second, you have to ease into it. You cannot expect to run hard for 30 minutes three days a week right off the start. You have to start small, increasing the load slightly every week, until you reach your target duration and intensity.
You can realize health benefits with as little as seven minutes of high intensity exercise per day. You can also achieve results with 30 minutes of low intensity exercise three days a week. You will also see benefits from 60 minutes of very low intensity seven days a week. The important part is matching your exercise routine to your expected outcome and your current fitness level.