Major Benefits Can Come From Less Exercise Than We Previously Thought (Thank God)

When it comes to fitness guidelines, we often feel that more is best in order to garner any real benefits. Yet, for a lot of people, the current recommendations may be unattainable due to life circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should commit to "150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity" in order to gain substantial health benefits. This means that we should spend anywhere from two-and-a-half to five hours per day exercising at a moderate level of intensity. For many people, these recommendations are a piece of cake. However, if you feel like those numbers are out of your comfort zone at the moment, you may not be alone.


We all know that any physical activity is better than nothing, but just how much can we get away with while still getting the major benefits? New research is emerging that sheds light on physical activity as we know it, and it's good news for anyone unable to commit to the current guidelines. So, if the thought of an intense workout for hours every week sounds unnerving, read on to learn how a recent study is flipping the script on how much physical activity we actually need.

A closer look at the research

A large study published in 2023 out of the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed more than 30 million adults over the course of 10 years and concluded that participants saw major benefits after only 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. This equates to only 11 minutes per day, or half the current guidelines. The study demonstrated that just 11 minutes per day provides a lower risk of mortality, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. This is good news if you find it difficult to squeeze in the required hours due to your schedule or life situation.


So, what types of activities count as moderate-intensity aerobic exercises? Aerobic exercise essentially means anything that conditions the cardiovascular system — think running, biking, hiking, or swimming. When looking at moderately-intense activities, the key is your exertion level. As Mayo Clinic explains, moderate activity should feel rather difficult, you should get a sweat on, and your breath should start to quicken. So, how can you tell when you have reached this moderate intensity? Your heart rate will accelerate and you will have a harder time making conversation. 

Tips to get started on your exercise plan

Regular movement during the day harnesses so many positive health benefits: our mood improves, risk for disease and illness declines, our sleep eases, and we get an energy boost, among many other benefits. Yet, in order to achieve these healthy benefits, it's helpful to know where to start. Knowing that there are so many quick and easy at-home workouts out there should come as a relief. This means you don't have to pay for a gym membership in order to start your 75 minutes per week exercise plan. Also, scheduling the time in your calendar is another important tip, so that your busy day doesn't edge out exercise.


Keep in mind that while calmer exercises such as yoga, walking, and stretching are great for your health, they don't count toward the level of intensity required to get the major health benefits. If you are having trouble sticking to a plan, try making it a social event. Find a friend who'd be able to commit to an exercise plan with you. Having someone to hold you accountable is the best way to ensure you will stick with your exercise goals. Just remember, any movement is better than none, so don't be so hard on yourself if you fall short of the recommended minutes. Each week you have the opportunity to try again to hit your goals.