The government released some new guidelines for physical activity this past week, telling us how much we need to exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and fend off problems like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But what if you have other goals like buffing up, getting ready for a race or just slimming down?
MSNBC talked with fitness experts to get an idea of what kind of activity you’ll need to reach those goals. The first area they touched on – slimming down. So how much exercise do you need to drop a few pounds?
To lose significant weight and keep it off, many people will need more than 300 minutes a week of moderate activity, the guidelines note. Spread out over the course of a week, that amounts to at least an hour of exercise for five days, which is in line with other recommendations for weight control. If you’re sedentary, begin slowly and build up.
So it sounds like losing weight is no easy process, you’re going to have to put the time in and really make a goal and stick to it. 5 hours a week really isn’t that much, but it can be if you haven’t been working out at all. Take it slow and work up to it- and you’ll get there.
What if you want to bulk up like a weightlifter or sport a sculpted bod at the beach? Depending on what your goal is, you can expect to be exercising and doing strength training from 3-5 days a week:
If your goal is to look good in a swimsuit (toned but not overly pumped up), aim to strength train (using any available approach to overload the muscles, including free weights, machines and resistance bands) three to four times a week for 45 minutes to an hour each time, working all major muscle groups, Dawes says. Allow each muscle group to recover for at least 48 hours. You’ll also need to watch your diet and burn calories through cardio. Looking toned requires both boosting muscle and minimizing body fat.
If your goal is to sport a rock-hard bodybuilder bod, you’re in for some serious time in the gym – about five days a week, Dawes says. This can put you at risk for overuse injuries, so it’s a good idea to consult a personal trainer for advice on devising a safe routine that gives your muscles adequate recovery time.
How about if you’re training for a race? What kind of time input can you expect for that?
Not surprisingly, building aerobic endurance for competition in a 10K, marathon or triathlon requires much more effort than exercising to stay healthy.How much more? “It’s a continuum,” says James Pivarnik, president-elect of the American College of Sports Medicine and a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
It all depends on where you start, Pivarnik explains. A hard workout for a mere mortal might actually decondition an elite athlete who’s accustomed to much more advanced training on most days of the week.
“If you want to get fitter today, you have to somehow overload where you are now,” he says, and then build on that program.
Comana recommends that people start off using the “talk test” to gauge how hard to push themselves. This means that you should be able to talk continuously for 30 seconds while exercising, he says. If you can’t, it’s too difficult. Build your program from three days a week to five, he recommends.
Whatever you’re doing, what’s most important is to make a commitment and get started today. The gains you’ll make will happen one day, and one rep at a time. Good luck!