How much exercise do we really need?

How much exercise do we really need for optimal health?

Firstly, anything is better than nothing. Even 5 minutes a day is better than no minutes a day. Going from zero to something, brings the greatest health benefits.

Secondly it’s not just how much exercise but how we exercise.

For example, just 30 SECONDS – yes seconds not minutes – of fast running before each meal reduces your risk of diabetes because it lowers blood sugar levels immediately after eating. Ninety seconds in total can make a big difference to your life. The key is to run or cycle so hard that you’re totally out of breath after 30 seconds. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, start slowly and build up to breathless over a few weeks or even months. 

If you’re over 65 years, aim to walk 365 metres in 6 minutes. This halves your risk of dying in the next 10 years compared with someone who can’t reach 290 metres in the same timeframe.

As a general guide, 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day – and that includes vacuuming and cleaning – reduces your risk of dying in the next 8 years by 25% compared with people who have desk jobs and don’t move for most of the day. If you want to lower your risk of dying by 80%, aim for 100+ minutes of movement a day. Include four or more 30-60 second bouts of high intensity for maximum benefit. Check with your doctor before embarking on anything too vigorous. When you get the all clear, don’t be afraid to get out of breath and uncomfortable.

Another thing to aim for is doing 50 push ups in 2 minutes – start against the wall and work your way to the floor. Doing squats and lifting weights is also critical for health because it preserves muscle mass, reduces diabetes risk and improves mood. Strength training is used in the treatment of depression.

One final point is that exercise does NOT increase hunger – this is a myth. Exercise actually lessens hunger because it stimulates the release of adrenaline and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – both of which reduce appetite. However THINKING about exercise does increase hunger! So just do it!

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