The Age-Old Question: How Many Minutes of Exercise Do I Need Each Day?

June 9, 2020

By: Former ATH Forever ATHlete Manager Victoria Scott MS, CSCS and Former ATH Sports Performance Coach Francisco Tellez BS 


Everyone knows that exercise is a must, but how much do you actually need? Even with established daily routines schedules can be ever changing, but exercise is one constant that can be incorporated across all lifestyles. The main question that many coaches, personal trainers or health care professionals receive is: How much do I need to exercise? This question has a variety of different answers. This blog will discuss the different exercise recommendations and the many positives that come with daily exercise.


While there are individual variables and restraints to consider, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the minimum amount of weekly exercise to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The CDC states adults need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve their health – that is aerobic activity and muscle strengthening (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2020). Furthermore, the CDC recommends exercising for at least 150 minutes per week and provides examples of how individuals can divide these hours to meet their weekly goals. For example, 150 minutes a week can be broken up into 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week or 50 minutes a day for 3 days a week.


Figure 1. From the CDC shows examples for an adult dividing 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2020).


Additionally, the CDC recommends that children and adolescents (6-17 years old) should exercise 60 minutes or more a day with a variety of enjoyable moderate-to-vigorous activities a day (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2020). The most important recommendation for this age group is to get them up, moving and having fun in a safe environment!


Check out Student ATHlete programs for youth athletes ages 8-18. Each class is 60-90 minutes.


Similarly, the American Heart Association (AHA), also recommends that adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderately-intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week (Physical Activity Recommendations for Different Age Groups, 2020). While the AHA provides the same recommendations for children and adolescents as the CDC, it recommends adults increase activity to 300 minutes of exercise per week to progress their training and allow for continued health benefits. If time, type, and intensity is not progressed, physiological benefits plateau.


For example, if an individual lifts the same weight, strength gains will eventually plateau if there is no progression; the same goes for health benefits when performing aerobic activity. If an individual performs 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week for a prolonged period with no progression, the body becomes acclimated and plateaus. While benefits attained are not lost, there are no further benefits gained unless progression is implemented.


Our Forever ATHlete classes for adults (ages 18 and up) include a variety of themes to keep you from plateauing. All exercises include progressions and regressions to accommodate any fitness level. Additionally, classes utilize a mix of strength training and cardiovascular moves. Each class is 60 minutes.


Below, examples of moderate and vigorous intensity activities are provided. Note there are progressions both within and across categories of physical activity. For example, a brisk walk can be progressed to a light jog, which will eventually progress to running.


Examples of moderate-intensity activities:

  • Brisk walking (3-4 mph)
  • Light jogging (5-6 mph)
  • Water aerobics
  • Chores around the house like vacuuming, gardening, lawn mowing
  • Biking slower than 10 mph
  • Playing sports like golf, softball, baseball or doubles tennis


Examples of vigorous-intensity activities:

  • Jogging/running (>6 mph)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming laps
  • Jumping rope
  • Biking faster than 10 mph
  • Playing sports like soccer, football, basketball


The main difference between moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities is heart rate. During vigorous activities, the heart rate will be elevated more so than during moderate activity. To develop this concept further, moderate-intensity activities are performed at 50-70% of an individual’s maximum heart rate while vigorous activities are performed at 70-85%. The follow up question to this, of course, is: How do I know what percentage I am at?


First, it is desired that an individual possesses some form of heart monitor to better track their activity, a chest strap device or smartwatch may be the best choice for guiding workouts and performance (Pasadyn, et al. 2019). Second, these ranges can be determined by utilizing the heart rate reserve (HRR) formula. Execute this formula prescribed by the Mayo Clinic (Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It, 2019):

1. Subtract age from 220 to determine maximum heart rate
2. Determine resting heart rate (preferably first thing in the morning)
3. Subtract resting heart rate from maximum heart rate
4. Multiply difference by desired percentage range (e.g. 50-70% or 70-85%)
5. Add resting heart rate to the product to determine desired heart rate


For example, there is a 40 year old individual that wants to determine their target heart rate range for moderate intensity activity:

1. 220 - 40 = 180
2. Resting Heart Rate: calculated manually (carotid artery), or via smart watch = 70
3. 180 - 70 = 110
4. 110 * 0.5 = 55 (50%) or 110 * 0.7 = 77 (70%)
5. 70 + 55 = 125; 77 + 70 = 147
6. Target heart rate zone for moderate intensity activity is 125 to 147


According to a research article published in 2019, wearable heart rate monitors were compared against an echocardiogram (ECG) during and after exercise. Based on the results of the study, a chest strap reflected near similar readings to the ECG. The Apple Watch yielded the second most accurate readings, but provided the most accurate readings amongst other watches (Pasadyn, et al. 2019).


Looking for a fitness tracker to help monitor your progress? Check out this in-depth guide from on choosing the best fitness tracker to support your health and personal fitness goals.


To reap maximum benefits, implementing both moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity, along with strengthening and stretching exercises, is recommended. Having a well balanced, planned out exercise routine will yield greater results than leaving daily/weekly exercise routines to chance. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Remember, an elaborate program is not needed to get started. When planning out weekly exercise, take into consideration that some activity is better than no activity.


The benefits that can be obtained from weekly exercise are endless. These include, but are not limited to, decrease in stress, prolonged life, reduced cancer risk and increased health (specifically cardiovascular function). It is widely accepted exercise is an important component to maintaining health, but knowing the proper amount of exercise needed is key. Whether an individual is just starting, or an individual is well-trained, science and research has developed recommendations on how much, how long and what type of exercise is needed.


At Athlete Training + Health our mission is to provide elite performance training for professional, collegiate, high school, and youth athletes, along with every day individuals so everyone can achieve their personal best. We strive to help every one of our athletes on their journey to optimal health and performance. Our evidence-led training programs are designed to ensure our athletes reach their fitness goals and accomplish everything they set their minds to achieve. Our Forever ATHlete training program offers a variety of class formats including HIIT, boot camp, strength conditioning, speed and agility training. These programs are supported by healthcare collaboration and are focused around athletes’ total health. Our Student ATHlete training program is also designed in collaboration with our healthcare partners and is designed for the specific needs of growing bodies ages 8-18. If this is the starting point for you on your path to fitness and wellness, let us help you!




“How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2020,


Physical Activity Recommendations for Different Age Groups” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2020,


“Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It”, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Aug. 2019,


Pasadyn S, Soundan, Mohamad, Gilinova, Marc et al. Accuracy of commercially available heart rate monitors in athletes: a prospective study. Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy. Vol 9, No 4 August 2019.



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