This Is How Much Exercise You Need Every Week

Paceline Fitness Week

Paceline Cardmembers unlock five percent cash back on health and fitness purchases, and all Paceline users earn healthy rewards in the app for every week they hit 150 minutes of elevated heart rate activity. Learn how that benchmark fits in with government guidelines for physical activity here.

150 minutes. In about that time, you can drive from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, watch The Dark Knight, listen to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” approximately 39 times, or get about halfway through the line at the DMV. 

Okay, that last one is just a guess. But this isn’t: 150 minutes is a figure to keep in mind if you want your sweat sessions to really make a difference to your health. Below, more on how and why that number should factor into your fitness regimen. 

How Much Exercise You Really Need

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend one of the following for adults when it comes to aerobic activity each week: 

  • 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (think: a brisk walk)
  • 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (think: hiking where there are lots of elevation changes) 
  • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity

In addition, the guidelines suggest including at least two days of muscle-strengthening exercises (i.e. resistance training and weight lifting) in your weekly regimen. Specifically, you should work in activities that hit all major muscle groups and are at least moderate in intensity. 

Now, Paceline’s 150-minute benchmark is a nod to the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of cardio, which is essentially the same as the aerobic activity guidelines above. But it’s important to note that Paceline counts any elevated heart rate activity (equal to or greater than the intensity of a brisk walk) towards your total. So, some resistance training could count towards your streak as well, like if you incorporate it into a circuit with cardio stations. In other words, we don’t restrict you to a certain kind of activity, because we know that all movement is good movement.

Why You Should Hit Your Streak — Every Week

The Physical Activity Guidelines say you want to hit the above benchmarks for “substantial health benefits” — but what does that really mean? To find out, we dug a little deeper into the guidelines and spoke to Brandee L. Waite, MD, professor and chief of sports medicine in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California, Davis. 

At about 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, Waite says, studies show that people seem to maintain good cardiovascular health. In other words, this amount of exercise appears to help prevent problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, she explains. 

What’s more, individuals who are physically active for about 150 minutes per week have an estimated 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality (basically, any cause of death) than those who are not active, per the guidelines. Plus, staying physically active helps you to maintain a healthy weight, although the amount of exercise needed to do so varies from person to person.

As for adding in muscle-strengthening activities, doing so helps you maintain lean muscle mass. “A good level of lean body mass helps with your basal metabolic rate,” Waite explains. “When your body is resting, your muscles burn more energy than fat tissue does. So by doing resistance training and maintaining your muscle tissue, you actually increase the number of calories that you burn when you’re doing nothing.” Waite adds that resistance training also supports your joints when you’re doing cardiovascular work (which, in turn, can help prevent injury so you can more easily reach fitness goals). 

Why You Should “Snack” Your Way to 150 Minutes

The guidelines also note that you should ideally spread your aerobic activity out rather than, say, bust out a single 150-minute session every Sunday. 

For cardiovascular health, “the shortest amount of time that it seems to count would be 10 minutes,” Waite says. “So you could even break it up into 10 or 15 minutes, two or three times throughout the day, in order to get your 30 minutes.” Do that five days a week, and you’ve hit the mark. 

Not only is this approach probably more conducive to your busy schedule, it can help ward off injury, and may also be necessary to ensure that your workouts are worth your time: Research published in 2014 found that sitting for two hours canceled out the cardiorespiratory benefits of 20 minutes of exercise. So, moving a little extra throughout the day may be an important part of improving your fitness and health, study author Jarett Berry told CBS News.

With that said, if your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to spread out your minutes, it’s okay to hit your 150 minutes with fewer longer sessions — just make sure you work up to longer bouts of activity to help avoid injury. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re feeling inspired to hit your streak this week, there are just a few things to keep in mind. If you’re new to exercise, start slow to help yourself stay injury-free. Listen to your body, and only amp up your workout time by 10 to 15% every week, Waite advises. And if you have a chronic injury or other serious medical concerns (like very high blood pressure), make sure you get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, Waite adds. 

Any amount of physical activity is better than staying sedentary. But by completing 150 minutes of elevated heart rate activity every week, you can start to unlock plenty of health benefits, exercise rewards from your favorite brands, and up to 5% cash back on Health & Wellness purchases.

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