How much exercise do I need to do? The science.


Last week I talked about the personal factors that you might want to consider when choosing an exercise schedule. This week, it is about the research.

First, an important definition. There are 11 components to fitness. 5 health related and 6 skill related components, together they make up fitness.

The five health related components of physical fitness are cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility and body composition.

The six skill related components of physical fitness are agility, balance, coordination, speed, power and reaction time.

There is also another category of fitness that are non-performance, biological systems, that are influenced by your personal level of physical activity. 

These are:

Metabolic fitness, which is the state of your metabolic systems and predicts your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic, lifestyle diseases.

Morphological fitness, a component of fitness that relates to body composition, body fat content and fat distribution.

Bone Integrity which relates to bone density and bone health.

Motor skills, these are non-fitness related abilities that will improve with practice and related to specific sports.

If you want to get the most from your training, your fitness and your health then these are all factors that will effect your plan.

What else do you need to consider?

Let’s start with some guidelines. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines say that to achieve health benefits most adults should do 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, in at least 10 minute sessions. The Center for Disease Control in the US also adds that muscle strengthening exercises should be done at least 2 days per week ( the Canadian recommendations says it is “beneficial” to add muscle strengthening guidelines). Finally, the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes a week and 2 days of muscle strengthening exercises. All the recommendations are similar for adults, but are they the best recommendations?

Here is the problem.

This is the minimum you should do, the absolute minimum. Want to get the best results? Then you have to do something different. An extensive Taiwanese study of over 400,000 adults for more than 8 years showed that more, is indeed better.

Even if you don’t exercise now, the Taiwanese study showed that 15 minutes a day was better for your health than nothing, but 30 minutes a day was better than 15 minutes, 60 minutes is better than 30 and 90 minutes is better than 60 minutes.


In fact in any study of the benefits of exercise, there was never a limit. The benefits may not increase, but there was not a point of diminishing returns. The health benefits remain higher when you do more exercise.

If you want to be as healthy as possible, remain functionally independent and reduce your risk of disease then the minimum amount of exercise you should do is three times the recommended dose.

If you ask me how much exercise you should do. My answer remains “it depends”.

Change your mind, change your health,




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