How Many Minutes of Exercise Per Week is Good?
Table of Contents
- The Minutes of Recommended Exercise Per Week
- What is Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity?
- What is Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activity?
- What are Muscle-Strengthening Activities?
- What If I Want to Build Muscle and Get Bigger?
- Examples of Weekly Workout Schedules
- Sample Workout
- How many minutes a week should you exercise to lose weight?
- Exercise for Older Adults (65+)
- Benefits of Consistent Exercise
- When You Should Consult a Doctor
- Wrapping Up
You are finally ready to change your life by including more physical activity to your daily routine. You start with the basics: running and strength training. You buy brand-new sportswear equipment. Then you wonder: how long should you work out in a day? Let’s find out!
The Minutes of Recommended Exercise Per Week
The number of minutes you should exercise each day and week depends on your age and fitness goals.
Don’t worry, though, because you don’t need to calculate these numbers yourself. There are guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) that detail how much time people should spend being physically active each day and week regarding their age. 
The Bare Minimum
For adults aged 18 to 64, the bare minimum is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises weekly.
To break that down into a daily exercise routine, you want to perform 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like jogging for five days each week. Or you can perform three high-intensity workouts at 25 minutes each. Ideally, if you can only do the bare minimum, you should strive to do a combination of both moderate and high-intensity exercise.
As recommended by the WHO, the optimal amount of activity time to further improve the health of adults is 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercises weekly.
Again, to break this down into a weekly routine, you should perform either a moderate-intensity activity for 60 minutes, five days per week. Or you can perform 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise for five days per week.
We highly recommend mixing up your activities with varying intensity. For example, try one day of moderate-intensity exercise followed by a day of high-intensity exercise, then a rest day. Repeat this cycle.
With that said, you should start small and gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of activity.
WHO also recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercises a minimum of two times per week to support the musculoskeletal system and provide additional health benefits. Such exercises can be of moderate or greater intensity.
What is Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity?
Moderate-intensity exercise is any type of physical activity that causes you to breathe harder than normal while also increasing your heartbeat.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises make your heart rate up to 50 to 60% higher than when it’s in a calm state.
However, if you want to be more specific, you can calculate your age-related heart rate for moderate-intensity activities.
Your target heart rate should be 64% to 76% of your maximum heart rate. One of the fastest and relatively accurate ways to calculate your maximum heart rate is by subtracting your age from 220. 
For example, let’s say you are 35. Subtracting 35 from 220, your maximum heart rate will be 185 beats per minute or bpm.
Now, continuing with this example, to calculate your recommended target heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise, you would multiply 185 by 64% and 76%.
- 185 x .64 = 118.4
- 185 x .76 = 140.6
When performing a moderate-intensity activity, your heart rate should always be between 118 and 141 beats per minute.
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include
- Tennis (doubles)
- Walking fast
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike with light effort
If it’s an active recovery day, consider activities like gardening and cleaning as they can increase heart rate without being too stressful during your day of recovery.
What is Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activity?
As the name suggests, vigorous or high-intensity aerobic activities significantly increase both breathing and heart rate.
The difference between moderate and high-intensity can usually be distinguished by a simple talk test. If you can’t say more than a few words without taking a break, then you are performing a high-intensity activity.
For vigorous-intensity exercise, the target heart rate is between 77% and 93% of the maximum heart rate.
Let’s continue with the example from above. In that example, the max heart rate is 185 bpm. To figure out the target heart rate for high-intensity activities, you would multiple 185 by 77% and 93%:
185 x .77 = 142.4
185 x .93 = 172.05
When performing a high-intensity activity, your heart rate should always be within a range of 142 and 172 beats per minute.
Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises include
- aerobic dancing
- tennis (singles)
- jumping rope
- hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
- cycling 10 miles per hour or faster
- swimming laps
- heavy yard work like continuous digging or hoeing
What are Muscle-Strengthening Activities?
Muscle strengthening exercises focus on developing the strength, size, and shape of the superficial muscle tissue. These exercises also help to improve neuromuscular connections or communication between the body and the brain.
Just because you focus on getting stronger doesn’t mean you will also gain muscle mass. You have to tweak the acute variables of every workout in order to align yourself with that goal. So, if you’re worried that by doing muscle-strengthening exercises you’re going to look like the Hulk, don’t worry!
Here are some examples of muscle-strengthening activities.
- long-distance cycling, running or swimming
- yoga or pilates
- hill walking
- resistance band exercises
- lifting weights
- sit-ups, push-ups
- circuit training, HIIT
As you’ll see, all of these are great for your muscles, but with the exception of intentional weightlifting, they won’t make you bulk up. So, be proud to get stronger and don’t worry about getting huge and bulky muscles.
Day-to-day activities like climbing stairs or household chores like digging in the garden or scrubbing the bathroom are also great muscle-strengthening activities for active recovery days.
What If I Want to Build Muscle and Get Bigger?
As mentioned above, just because you are performing muscle-strengthening exercises doesn’t mean you will automatically gain both strength and size.
To trigger muscle growth, you need to use specific training variables. In general, here’s one of the most proven sets of variables to help you build muscle. Keep in mind that these variables are used with a weightlifting workout.
Number of exercises:
- 3 per major muscle group (e.g., back)
- 2 for secondary muscle groups (e.g., biceps)
Number of sets per exercise:
- 3 to 5 sets
Number of repetitions per set:
- 8 to 12 repetitions (reps)
Amount of weight to use:
- Use 65% to 75% of your one-rep maximum (the heaviest amount of weight you can lift once with proper form)
- 60 to 90 seconds
Lifting tempo (in seconds):
- Concentric (lifting): 2 seconds
- Isometric (pausing): 0 seconds
- Eccentric (lowering): 2 seconds
- Use enough weight and intensity so that you are just outside of your comfort zone, and you’re barely able to get those last two reps.
Examples of Weekly Workout Schedules
To enjoy and enhance your health, choose the type of activity that best aligns with your fitness goals.
For example, if you want to focus on longevity and cardio health, you can select running, walking in the fresh air, yoga, or dancing.
Or, if your fitness goal is to increase your endurance and strength, consider weightlifting, sprints, and circuit training.
From here, you’ll want to match your current fitness level and availability to the recommended amount of exercise time and exercise intensity.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity with Strength Training
- Three times a week – 50 minutes of walking/jogging/water aerobics
- Two times a week – intermediate to advanced yoga classes
Total: 5 workouts per week:
- 150 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic exercise
- 120 minutes of muscle-strengthening training
Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activity with Strength Training
- 50 minutes of tennis or soccer–once a week;
- 20 minutes of jumping rope/running/bicycling + an hour of circuit training with weights–two times a week
Total: 3 workouts per week
- 90 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise
- 120 minutes of muscle-strengthening workouts.
- 90 min of dancing, tennis, or bicycling with light effort–once a week;
- 15 min of running + resistance band strength training–twice a week.
Total: equivalent to 150 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic activity + 60 min of muscle-building training.
To give you an idea of how to breakdown your workouts over the week while abiding by the guidelines from WHO, here’s a sample workout program to get you started:
Monday: Moderate-intensity exercise
Strength training – Full body workout
Tuesday: High-intensity exercise
Kickboxing class for 30 minutes
Wednesday: Active recovery day
- It is technically a rest day, but we recommend doing a light and easy-going activity like taking a walk around the neighborhood.
Thursday: Moderate-intensity exercise
Jogging for 30 minutes
Friday: High-intensity exercise
- CrossFit class
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: Active recovery day
- Again, do something active but not involving heavy lifting or aggressive training.
How many minutes a week should you exercise to lose weight?
If your goal is to lose weight, The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
That equals 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Your efforts will pay off even more if you reduce your daily calorie intake. The number of calories needed for weight loss is determined individually. However, a caloric deficit or burning more calories than you consume is required. You can use weight loss apps to track your nutrients and calories and always know if you are in a deficit.
Exercise for Older Adults (65+)
Here are some more specific recommendations for people aged 65 and older:
- Every week, strive to do either two and a half hours of medium-intensity physical activity, or one hour and 15 minutes of high-intensity activity, or a combination of both.
- The duration of physical activity should be at least 10 minutes
- People with joint disease should include balance classes in their exercise list to strengthen joints and connective tissue in order to help prevent falls
- Perform strength exercises to maintain the tone of the main muscle groups at least two times a week
- Always take into account your physical capabilities and health
Benefits of Consistent Exercise
You can look forward to two types of benefits from exercise: immediate and long-term.
Among immediate benefits are improved quality of sleep, reduced anxiety, and normalized blood pressure. That’s what you get after a single moderate or vigorous activity, even if you have an irregular training schedule.
Long-term effects provide much more health benefits, reducing the risks of
- Cognitive issues
- Heart disease or stroke
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain types of cancer
- Weight gain
Regular physical activity also improves balance and coordination through the development of the musculoskeletal system. It positively affects the elderly in particular, as well-developed balance and coordination reduce the risk of falls and various injuries. 
When You Should Consult a Doctor
Moderate kinds of physical activity are safe for the majority of people. However, if you have a chronic illness or history of injuries or surgeries, consult your medical specialist about the types and amounts of exercise that they recommend. Examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, have a disability, or are overweight, discuss high-intensity physical activity with your doctor before attempting.
- Start with performing 150 min of moderate-intensity or 75 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, based on your doctor’s recommendations.
- Gradually increase your training time to 300 minutes of moderate or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercises per week
- Consider a combination of both types of intensity.
- Add at least two muscle-strengthening activities per week to your workout schedule.
- Choose activities you actually enjoy
- Stay consistent with your routine