How much exercise should you do each week?
Reviewed by our clinical team
Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s weekly routines, no matter if you’re trying to lose weight or not. Exercising has lots of great benefits from maintaining a healthy weight to fitness, mobility and improving mental health, there’s thousands of reasons to get in a regular routine of exercise. But sometimes finding the motivation and knowing where to start can be hard.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s bodies are different, so we all need and prefer different exercise routines to help us stay fit, healthy and happy. Some people might find it hard to find a type of exercise they enjoy, and some people might have a condition that makes certain types of exercise hard.
You don’t necessarily have to sign up to a gym or yoga studio, there’s plenty of exercises you can try from the comfort of your home, garden or local park. So, if you’re a beginner, there’s lots of options for getting started.
But how much exercise do you need to do each week? And what kind of exercise should you be doing. In this simple guide we’ll give you the recommended guidelines for exercise and exercises to include in your weekly routine.
Benefits of exercise
The benefits of exercise are countless, and it really is an important part of keeping your body and mind healthy.
A sedentary lifestyle (spending lots of time sat still) can impact how your body regulates blood sugar, blood pressure and even how it breaks down fat. The impact on these bodily functions can increase your risk of serious health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Plus, it can also lead to you becoming overweight or obese.
Perhaps one of the most important things about regular exercise is that it can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Statistically speaking, the NHS estimates that regular physical activity reduces you risk of:
- Breast cancer by 20%
- Early death, falls in older age, depression and dementia by 30%
- Coronary heart disease and stroke by 35%
- Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer by 50%
- Hip fractures by 68%
- Osteoarthritis by 83%
Exercise can also help with your mood, self-esteem, how well you’re sleeping and stress.
How much exercise should I do each week?
It’s recommended those aged 19 to 64 should aim for at least 150 of moderate aerobic in activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. Moderate and vigorous exercise helps to burn calories and build up your cardiovascular fitness.
It’s recommended that you also include at least two sessions of strengthening and flexibility exercise into your routine. Strengthening helps you to make your muscles stronger. It can also help slow down how quickly you lose bone and muscle mass as you get older. Working on your flexibility can help improve your posture, make you less likely to get an injury and reduce aching muscles and joints.
Generally speaking, moderate exercise is an activity which you can do and still hold a conversation. Examples of moderate exercise include:
- Walking quickly
- Pushing a lawn mower or pram
If you can’t hold a conversation while you’re doing a certain type of exercise, this would be classed as vigorous exercise for you. Examples of vigorous exercise include:
- Going for a run
- Climbing lots of stairs
- Cycling uphill
- Team sports like football, rugby, netball and hockey
- Singles tennis
Strengthening exercises often involve using body weight, additional weights or resistance. Examples of strengthening exercises include:
- Tai chi
- Using weights
- Push-ups and sit-ups
Some household chores and daily activities like heavy gardening, lifting children or carrying your shopping would also count as strengthening exercises.
Some activities like circuit training, aerobics or running actually count as both aerobic and strengthening exercise.
Getting started with exercise
150 or even 75 minutes of exercise might sound like a lot of time out of your week, especially if you’re busy with work, family life or social commitments. But it’s good to remember it doesn’t have to be long sessions, break it down into chunks that you can fit around your life. Finding time for a 10- or 20-minute YouTube home workout on your lunch break, running back from the school drop-off or swapping a drive to the station for a brisk walk or cycle, can make all the difference.
In fact, a 10-minute brisk walk in the morning, repeated at lunch time and in the evening Monday to Friday would see you hitting that 150-minute goal.
Starting an exercise routine or joining a gym can be daunting, but it’s all about going at your pace and slowly building up the amount of exercise you do, so that you’re seeing and feeling the benefits.
If you need some help on where to start with exercise, the NHS website can give you lots of helpful exercise support, from home workouts to apps like the Couch to 5k or a 9-week running programme which can help absolute beginner runners run for 30 minutes or 5k. You could also speak to your GP, or one of our VideoGPs.
Can you lose weight by exercise alone?
Keeping active is an important part of weight loss, but often it won’t work on its own. You’ll also need to look at your diet, potentially reduce calories and make sure you’re getting a good balance of nutrients.
If you’re looking to lose weight, the recommendation is that you aim to burn around 500 more calories than you take in. Or if you’re a woman, aim to eat 1400 calories a day, and for a man aim for 1900 (these numbers are 500 below the usual recommended daily allowance).
This reduced calorie diet combined with doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, should help you to lose weight gradually and sustainably.
Get weight loss support from Online Doctor
We’ve already mentioned that you can speak to one of our VideoGPs if you’d like some advice on weight loss. But we also have an online weight loss clinic which you can use to request certain weight loss treatments. These treatments can help support you through your weight loss journey, either by supressing your appetite or affecting the way fat is absorbed into the body.
If you’re looking for more advice, we have a whole library of weight loss and lifestyle articles from our clinicians.