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How much exercise do you really need?

Lauren Rao, M.Ed., AT, ATC, CSCS
for Henry Ford Health

Health experts have been pushing almost-daily activity for decades. But a new study suggests you may not need to exercise four to five days each week to reap the rewards.

While it’s true that more exercise is better for your body (without getting into extremes), not everyone can squeeze in 50 minutes of activity five days a week. For those people, this recent study confirms some exercise is better than none.

Squeezing in Fitness

Whether you’re an on-the-go parent or you work 60 hours each week, you can find ways to fit exercise into your day. A few ideas:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot.
  • Do strength-training activities in between household chores (do lunges while folding laundry or push-ups while waiting for the coffee to brew).
  • Walk while you field phone calls.
  • Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair.

No matter which activity you choose, make sure you warm up, use proper form and breathe during exercise.

Still can’t manage to work out during the week? Maximize your exercise time during off days. At least one study shows the weekend warrior approach (working out only on weekends) produces plenty of perks, including a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

In fact, researchers found that folks who exercised regularly (defined as working out moderately for at least 150 minutes over the course of a week or vigorously for at least 75 minutes each week over three or more sessions) were only slightly better off than those who worked out two days each week.

Exercise as Medicine

Despite these encouraging findings, scientists agree that if you want to prevent disease and sidestep obesity, exercising only twice a week isn’t enough — particularly if you aren’t eating a healthy diet.

Overall, the research is clear: Obesity leads to disease. The best way to keep it at bay is to exercise five or six times each week with an active recovery day.

Lauren Rao is an athletic trainer with Henry Ford Health System and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in athletic training from Albion College and the University of Virginia, respectively. She has additional certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and as a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach. She is currently assigned to work with athletes at Lawrence Technological University as an injury prevention specialist.

Visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) to schedule an appointment with a doctor or one of our athletic trainers to talk about your fitness goals.

You can also read more nutrition and fitness advice on the Henry Ford LiveWell health and wellness blog, so subscribe to get all the latest tips.

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