How Much Exercise Is Enough?

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

Recently I’ve written some posts describing my training plan and some of my training sessions. My goal is to provide some inspiration that an old guy like me can still move pretty well despite some of the setbacks I’ve gone through,

But I’m concerned I might be intimidating people who are new to exercise or who don’t particularly like it. I definitely flirt with the upper limit of both time and effort devoted to exercise, which is why I’ve discussed the topic of “how much exercise is too much” multiple times. But I enjoy physical activity and it is my hobby. The amount that is actually needed for good health is considerably less than what I do. The typical guidelines are a very good start: about 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise (brisk walking or equivalent) on most days, or a total of 150 minutes a week. Alternatively, you can do more intense exercise, like interval training, for a total of about 75 minutes or too. Even Better, in my opinion, is a mix of these two. For example, three brisk 30 minutes walks a week, and a couple of days of shorter higher intensity workouts, about 20 minutes long including warmup and cooldown. This mix is great because it keeps your endurance up, and benefits your “high end” fitness, including your “fast twitch” muscle fibers, which can decay rapidly with aging if you don’t work them.

That is all aerobic fitness. Some resistance training a couple of days is also highly recommended, to preserve muscle strength and mass as we age. I discussed this in my post “Getting Started With Resistance Training“.

The hardest part is getting yourself to do this consistently. For me, the best way is to choose activities that are enjoyable. If it’s just a chore, it becomes harder to discipline yourself to work it into a busy schedule all the time.

My “enjoyable fitness” story

As a kid I always enjoyed team sports like baseball, football, basketball. I was pretty good at these at the amatuer level, like touch football games in the street or “pickup” basketball with my friends at a nearby park. But I wasn’t good enough to do well at the organized level, for example I did not make the scholl basketball team in high school. Then after graduating college and entering the “real world”, I needed a way to stay in shape. I’d never enjoyed fitness activities like running for their own sakes. I’d enjoyed biking as a teenage because it was a good way to get around, but dropped it when I got my license and my first car.

So now what do I do? I could have tried joining “adult ed” recreation leagues of team sports, but was a little intimidated I wouldn’t be good enough. So for the first time I tried exercise for its own sake. I took up running because Dr. Cooper’s book Aerobics was popular at this time (1974). I did not particularly enjoy it, but managed to keep it up for a couple of years. Then my wife and I moved to the Bay area in California in 1976. We lived in Mountain View, 10 miles south of my job in Palo Alto.

Highway 101 near Palo Alto today. Much wider Than It was in 1976, but clogged up worse than ever
Alternate Route From Mountain View- A quiet residential street in Palo Alto

Sounds ideal, a nice little hop on the freeway. But the commute was horrible! It took about 45 minutes sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on a good day, on a bad day much longer. I tried all the back ways, and they were just as bad. There also were no good transit options, just a slow old bus route. I complained about this to a coworker, Malcolm, that was a retired bike racer from Scotland, and he said, “why don’t you try riding your bike, laddie”?, So I tried it, and thoroughly loved it! It changed everything, because now I could do an enjoyable activity, and not worry about how much time it took because I could actually get to work quicker, I’ve been a fan of “active transportation” ever since. Thanks, Malcolm! But this isn’t just about active transportation, it’s about finding some way to make exercise enjoyable and not a chore, which thankfully it’s been for me in various modes ever since.

March 8, 2021March 6, 2021

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