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How many minutes of exercise do you need?

How many minutes of exercise do you need?

Experts say that exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day can considerably improve one’s health


Though an individual’s personal fitness goals may vary, people need a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Ashish Baruah, master personal trainer, fitness and nutrition coach and a freelancer fitness coach in Guwahati tells Happiest Health that one can do 150 minutes of exercise a week as per the guidelines set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). He further says that one should engage in activities like cycling, walking or training for 20 to 30 minutes every day, two to three days a week. “Over a period, they can increase the time range of exercise by 40 to 45 minutes,” he points out.

Rajat Manjunath, senior strengthening and conditioning coach, Peak Performance, Bengaluru, says that 20 minutes of workout (any kind of movement) is well and good.  “Though there is no fixed time for exercise, if you engage in the right kind of workouts like walking or cycling, 20 minutes can give you a decent calorie burn,” he notes.

Children and adolescents

The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and recommendations provide details on how much physical activity people from different age groups need.

As per the WHO guidelines, children and adolescents should exercise at least 60 minutes per day.

Manjunath says that children and adolescents from the age of six to 17 need one to one-and-a-half hours of general activity every day. It could be playing a sport or swimming, basically just about anything which makes them move. He also recommends two to three sessions of basic strength training a week for 30 to 45 minutes, so that they can get good with their postures and technique which will help them build their muscles. “When it comes to endurance activity at their age, they can do moderate to fairly high-intensity exercise,” he says.

Dr Tharanath S, assistant professor, department of general medicine, Ramaiah Medical College and Hospital, Bengaluru, tells Happiest Health that children and adolescents who are much more energetic are expected to do 40 minutes of activity every day. Children and adolescents should do some stretching and other activities like playing sports, cycling, swimming and aerobic exercises.

Neha Premjee, the founder of The Ayurvedic Body Transformation, a fitness and health coach and an Ayurvedic expert based in Mumbai says, “The ideal time for daily exercise for adolescents should be 60 minutes. The exercise can start at a moderate level and can extend to rigorous physical activities. It is very normal and healthy for both boys and girls to go through one hour of exercise daily to keep their body and muscles active.”

She further says that teenagers should always keep their bodies active. “They should do simple yet effective exercises that are fun and form a part of daily activities. It doesn’t have to be a routine or a choice for them to exercise, rather it should be part of their lifestyle. Some of these exercises can include general sports such as basketball, football, volleyball, bicycling, swimming, running and so on. Dancing or martial arts can also be a fun workout routine for adolescents for their healthy growth,” she says.


Premjee says that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is ideal for adults from the age of 20 to 64.  “Dancing, jogging and racquet sports can keep the bones strong and active. It also helps a person avoid osteoporosis. Further, physical exercises such as squats, deadlifts and overhead presses help strengthen muscles and prevent arthritis.”  She also says that doing yoga helps to keep the mind healthy and stress free.

For adults, Manjunath recommends strength training and resistance training for at least 30 minutes to one hour three days a week. “One can work out up to six days a week. But three days of exercise should be minimum and one day of rest is mandatory for the body to recover,” he says.

Dr Tharanath points out that adults with no chronic conditions should work out for 30 minutes which includes exercises like jogging and walking. They can also increase the time up to two or two and a half hours.

Premjee further says that after the 40s, it is common for adults to go through depression. According to the WHO, five percent of adults globally suffer from depression.

“Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Factors like premenstrual problems, postpartum depression, perimenopause, menopause, work overload, inequality faced and eating disorders can easily lead women to depression. Different types of light and moderate yoga and meditation work as their prevention,” says Premjee.

“Thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week, are best suited for adults suffering from chronic conditions. Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, and swimming are best for improving heart health and endurance,” says Premjee.

She further explains that flexibility exercises such as stretching relieve stiffness, help with joint movements and keep the body active. “Strength exercises like overhead arm raise done for short intervals of time every day can help in improving joint motions, help control heart-related conditions, diabetes and asthma,” she notes.

“Generally, for people with diabetes and hypertension, we advise around 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is advised for people with hypertension. It (DASH diet) suggests lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure like reducing salt intake and increasing the fibre in the diet. The other thing that is part of the DASH diet is doing physical activity for 30 minutes, five days a week. The activity need not be strenuous. It can be something like walking or jogging,” adds Dr Tharanath.

Dash diet is an eating plan that helps to create a healthy eating style. It can be combined with other lifestyle changes such as physical activity which will help control blood pressure and cholesterol.

Manjunath says that people with heart-related conditions should avoid certain types of workouts like isometric training (exercise that holds the body in one position) as one has to be very careful with their heart rate. Whereas people with diabetes and cholesterol can work out for 20 to 30 minutes a day. But while exercising, one should make sure that they are not dehydrated.

Older adults

The WHO in its guidelines says that older adults (65 and above) should exercise 150-300 minutes a week. It further states that older adults as part of their physical activity should do multicomponent physical activity to emphasise their functional balance. Multicomponent activities include balance training, aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities.

Manjunath says that older adults can slightly reduce their intensity of workouts because of the prevalence of chronic conditions. “I have seen people at the age of 75 working out for an hour, but again it depends on how active and healthy that person is. Depending on their health, they can slightly reduce the time and intensity of exercise,” he adds. He also says that older people with chronic health conditions should work out depending on how much they can endure and the type of condition they have. Keeping in mind all these factors, the time and intensity of the workout are decided, he says.

Dr Tharanath points out that the elderly population with arthritis are not advised to engage themselves in activities like walking or jogging because of the wear and tear of the joints. “They can do static exercise like stretching and dumbbells (not heavy weight) for 30 minutes. Also, people with knee pain should strictly avoid skipping and jogging because the more the knee gets flexed and extended, there will be more wear and tear of the knee joint,” he adds. He also says that people with heart-related conditions should work out for 30 minutes and should focus more on aerobic exercises like jogging or walking.

According to the National Health Portal, older adults who are unable to exercise according to the recommended amount and guidelines due to their health conditions, should try and be physically active as per their abilities and conditions.

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