How Much Exercise Do We Really Need?

Everybody knows that exercise is good for your health and can even help you lose weight. But if you think that mean's spinning your indoor bicycle’s wheels like you’re in a life and death race, you may be surprised to realize it's not helping your cause. 

Before you drop dead (tired dead), out of breath and dripping with sweat, pause a minute and think. To live a healthy, long, happy, energetic life, it's essential to strike the right balance of physical activity and recovery time.

Thankfully, recent studies have revealed some interesting facts on how much exercise we really need, along with some lesser-known health benefits.

More Is Not Necessarily Always Better

A study published in 2003 in the American Journal of Hypertension established an 8-week long exercise program with 207 patients with hypertension: 30-60 minutes per week, 60-90 min/week, 90-120 min/week, and over 120 min/week.

The program revealed that the best results in greatly decreasing blood pressure were obtained during the 60-90 minute workouts. So, research advocates the middle way as well.

The European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery published a recent study, in 2016, that analyzed the effects of a single bout of arm cranking exercise on the health and mood of cardiovascular patients.

The study concluded that as little as one single bout of arm crank exercise reduced blood pressure and moreover, induced a state of emotional pleasure in participants.

Beating Diabetes

A long-term study was conducted by the Diabetes Prevention Program and funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases between 2009-2013 to establish the effect of exercise alone to prevent diabetes and obesity.

The data and numerous other published reviews led the researchers to conclude that a fair amount of moderate intensity exercise alone, such as walking 18 kilometers per week was as effective as intense complex programs involving diet, exercise, and other weight loss tips.

Sprint interval cycling for 10 minutes or continuous moderate cycling for 45 minutes during a 12-weeks program improved the cardiovascular health, regulated the blood sugar and showed decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Countering Obesity and Cardiovascular Problems

In 2014, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted a systematic review, expert opinions, and ongoing trials to determine the benefits of behavioral counseling to prevent cardiovascular diseases. The review concluded that medium to high-intensity diet and exercising in overweight and obese persons resulted in consistent improvements.

A 12-week controlled exercise program consisting of 30 minutes moderate-intensity for 5 days a week resulted in reduced cardiac risk in obese patients.

Promoting Weight Loss

Moderate, but regular, daily exercise can reduce appetite, transport excess nutrients away from the fat-deposit prone places, and help with weight loss, a study from the American Journal of Physiology found.

Walking 150 minutes per week (which means 20 minutes daily) or jogging 75 minutes per week (about 10 minutes a day) help you maintain your weight stable. If you want to lose weight, 300 minutes per week (40 minutes daily) are recommended.

Another study recommends 30 to 45 minutes of moderate physical activity performed 3 to 5 days a week for preventing weight gain.

Reducing the Risk of Cancer

A meta-analysis reviewed 31 studies with 63,786 cases to find that moderate physical activity, such as 4 hours walking weekly, 1 hour of running per week, and 2 hours of moderate to high-intensity recreation activity reduced the risk of breast cancer.

Another case-control study examined recreational types of activities with different duration, frequency, and intensity. Lifetime physical activity proved to reduce the breast cancer risk.

More studies show that women who were engaged in recreational physical activities had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women.

The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention confirm that the most important factors in decreasing the risk of cancer are body weight, a healthy diet, and physical activity. 

Improving Your Emotional State

One of the first effects of physical activity is an immediate stress release, increased well-being, lifting mood, increased emotional response, social improvement and physical health.

Walking fast for 35 minutes 5 times a week or 60 minutes 3 times a week decreased depression symptoms.

Boosting Cognitive Functions

It seems that fun exercising, like aerobics, done regularly, boost the hippocampus activity, researchers at the University of British Columbia discovered. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning.

Many other studies have proven that exercising has a direct and an indirect effect on the brain, by stimulating the health of brain cells, the apparition of new blood vessels in the brain, and in the reproduction of brain cells.

People who exercise have better developed prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex, the areas of the brain responsible for control thinking and memory.

So, if you had second thoughts about exercising, now it’s a good time to start a type of physical activity that you enjoy to reap the many scientifically backed-up benefits of exercising.