Let’s face it, life is busy. Between work, raising kids, taking care of pets, cooking, cleaning, shopping for new underwear, and generally trying to enjoy life, most of us don’t have a lot of time for exercise. But we know it’s good for us, so we shell out the cash for a gym membership, only to become disillusioned with the idea of spending an hour in the gym every day. But are multiple hours of structured exercise even necessary? Do you have to pay for the 90-minute boot camp classes three times a week? How much exercise is enough to simply be healthy, feel good, and live a long time?
When it comes to physical activity, what if you could just do the bare minimum and still reap all the health benefits?
In this article, we’ll cover exactly how much exercise is enough for general health and give you minimalist workout plans you can do anywhere, no matter how hectic your schedule!
How Much Exercise is Enough: The Minimum Effective Dose
So since we’re all busy here, let’s get to the point: How much exercise is enough?
When it comes to the least amount of physical activity required for maximum benefits, one of the leading health bodies, the World Health Organization (WHO), has some general recommendations:
“...adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate - and vigorous-intensity activity.”
This means just with just a few short workouts each week, you can reap most of the benefits of aerobic exercise, including:
- Lower rates of all-cause mortality
- Decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Healthy body composition and weight management
- Improved mood and lowered risk of depression
While there are definitely multiple ways of reaching these recommended doses, we’ve put together a few plans that can be executed with the bare minimum time, equipment, and cost.
Bare Minimum Fitness Plans For Overall Health
Minimal Fitness Plan 1: Moderate-Intensity, 150 Minutes Per Week
If you want to go the moderate-intensity route, all you need is 150 minutes per week. While the definition of “moderate-intensity” will vary from person to person, it generally refers to a medium amount of effort that noticeably increases heart rate. You should feel like you’re working, but still be able to carry on a conversation.
- Walking briskly or hiking
- Easy cycling
- Yoga (type varies on personal level of experience)
- Leisure sports (paddle boarding, kayaking, golf, etc.)
- General household chores
How to Do It:
Just choose your activity of choice, and perform at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5x/week or for 50 minutes, 3x/week. This can be as simple as walking the dog every morning, flipping on a yoga video a few days a week, or doing yard work or house chores on the weekends. That’s all it takes!
Looking to maximize fat loss or longevity? Try performing these workouts...
- In the early morning sunshine to get Vitamin D and help regulate circadian rhythm.
- In a fasted state after having caffeine (such as after your morning cup of Kion Coffee), which has been shown to help mobilize fatty acids and may enhance fat loss.
- In the cold, or following it up with a cold shower, as cold exposure can have positive effects on adipose tissue, as well as aging and longevity.
Minimal Fitness Plan 2: Vigorous-Intensity, 75 Minutes Per Week
If you’re short on time and want to get the most bang-for-your-bod, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week is all you need. This is the type of exercise that requires a large amount of effort and increases breathing and heart rate significantly. It should leave you feeling pretty gassed! (Technically, many of the “moderate” activities above could be done at a vigorous intensity.)
- Walking/hiking steep inclines
- Sprints (running, biking, swimming, rowing, etc.)
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Heavy strength training
How to Do It:
Perform a short 15-minute session, 5x/week, or a 25-minute session, 3x/week. A few short bodyweight HIIT workouts, a handful of heavy lifting sessions, or some quick morning jogs will easily help you reach the recommended dose.
Looking to improve body composition or gain muscle? Try performing these workouts...
- As a Tabata set.
- As a super-slow set, which can serve as both strength and aerobic training. See this article for detailed instructions.
- With added resistance, such as kettlebells or dumbbells.
How Much Exercise is Enough… If You Have #Goals?
While the above recommendations will help you achieve the maximum health benefits for the minimum amount of effort and time, if you have performance or body composition goals, you’re admittedly going to have to be more focused and dedicated in your training. This is where you might need to do longer, more targeted workouts.
According to WHO, for additional health benefits, you should double the amount of exercise recommended: 300 minutes per week of moderate activity, 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. Additionally, muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
But interestingly enough, many of the health benefits of exercise are shown to plateau after 450 minutes per week. So unless you’re an elite athlete or training for a competitive event, there’s no need for the average person to exercise for more than an hour a day.
Here are a few resources if you want to step up your game without devoting hours to the gym:
To be physically fit, strong, and healthy, you don’t need an hour a day, a fancy gym, or expensive workout equipment. No matter how busy your schedule, all you need is your body and a few spare minutes to experience many of the health benefits of exercise. Try biking instead of driving, take your phone calls on a walk, or do a quick Tabata workout on your lunch break. The opportunities to move more during the day are endless!
Want an easy hack to get the most out of your workouts, build lean muscle faster, and recover quicker? Check out Kion Aminos, the only supplement you need to fuel AND recover from exercise.