Here’s your motivation to get up and get moving!

Alex Loh
December 01, 2020
woman walking
Credit: Getty Images / Cavan Images

“I’ll exercise tomorrow” is a phrase that many, myself included, utter at the end of a long work day. Physical activity often takes a back seat to more relaxing activities, like watching TV, but it shouldn’t. Exercise is necessary for both physical and mental health, which is why it’s important to prioritize working out. 

But just how much time do you need to spend exercising? The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidelines about how much physical activity one should aim for each week. We broke down their advice so you can figure out the frequency, intensity and length of your workout, depending on your age and other health conditions. 

How Long You Should Exercise For Each Week

For Adults

For adults aged 18-64, both the WHO and the CDC stress the importance of exercise, especially to combat any sedentary movement (i.e, sitting all day for work). The WHO suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week (You could also do a combination of the two). These exercises could include brisk walking, running or cycling. (If you need help deciding what physical activity to do, check out the 5 best exercises for your health, according to a Harvard doctor.)

If you can, the WHO also recommends at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights. Although these recommendations may seem overwhelming and time-consuming at first, remember that any physical activity is better than none. The WHO advises to “start by doing small amounts of physical activity, and gradually increase the frequency, intensity and duration over time.”

For Older Adults

For older adults aged 65 and up, the WHO suggests the same frequency and intensity of workouts as younger adults with one addition. On at least three days, the WHO advises adding in activity that focuses on balance and strength training, like yoga or dancing. For older adults, the WHO stresses the importance of exercise, which can help “prevent falls or falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability.” These guidelines are also suggested for any adult, aged 18 and up with chronic conditions or living with a disability.

For Pregnant and Postpartum Women

For pregnant and postpartum women, the WHO advises at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity throughout the week. You should consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and to make sure your plan to stay active is appropriate for your pregnancy. The WHO recommends avoiding exercise in excessive heat, staying hydrated before, during and after exercise and avoiding activities that involve a high risk of falling, might limit your oxygen or involve the supine position (i.e, flat on your back) after the first trimester. 

For Children and Adolescents

For children and adolescents aged 5-17, the WHO recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise per day. The WHO suggests that exercise should consist of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity, and that three of those days should also include exercises that strengthen muscles and bones. The CDC, which concurs with the WHO’s recommendation, suggests age-appropriate exercises like running, jumping, bike riding and more (You can view the entire list of recommended activities here). These guidelines are also recommended for children living with a disability, but some activities may need to be modified. For kids, remember to keep it fun and playful. Play soccer, run around at the park or draw squares in chalk and hop around on them. 

Bottom Line

Although starting (and maintaining) a regular fitness routine may seem daunting, it is possible and the health benefits are impressive. Whether you go for a walk around the neighborhood or have a dance party in your living room, the first step to any healthy exercise routine is to start. So, get up, throw on those workout clothes and get moving.