Exercise - How Much and What Kind?

We have all heard of the word ‘exercise’ and associated it with some kind of physical activity. Physical activity is a broad term that includes exercising. Exercise is, therefore, a component of physical activity. The distinguishing feature of exercise is that it is a structured activity specially planned to develop and maintain fitness.

Exercise - How Much and What Kind?

No matter which age group you belong to, experts recommend some sort of physical activity, every day for all. Apart from physical fitness, exercise also improves the emotional and mental well-being of an individual. Listed below are some of the benefits of exercise, 

Exercise - How Much and What Kind?

Health Benefits!

Studies have proven, people who exercise regularly have reduced risks of developing various diseases. Appropriate exercise improves muscular strength, endurance, body composition, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Exercise and blood glucose control are also closely related. Physical exercises have shown to lower risks of the following diseases –

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart diseases
  • Bowel cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Breast cancer in women
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reduced hypertension
  • Hip fracture
  • Falls (among older adults)
  • Depression
  • Dementia
Improvement in mental

Exercising causes the body to release certain chemicals that can help lift a person’s mood. Exercise helps people sleep better. It can also help people with the first stages of depression and low self-esteem. Exercise stimulates your body to release proteins and other chemicals that improve the overall functioning of your brain. 

The results of a study published on Frontiers suggest that people who engage in regular exercise lower their risk of developing anxiety by almost 60%. Additionally, exercise can also give people a real sense of accomplishment and pride in having achieved a goal. People feel more focused and motivated. 

Exercise - How Much and What Kind?
Improvement in sexual health

Regular exercise may lower the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. For those who already suffer from ED, exercise will help improve their sexual performance. In women, training may enhance sexual arousal and pleasure. 

Exercise helps people in old age

This may not seem necessary now, but your body will be prepared well for old age if you start exercising early. Osteoporosis (a weakening of the joints and bones) can be a problem in most people as they get older. Weight-bearing exercises — like jumping, running, or brisk walking — during the youth can help keep bones strong in the long run. 

Exercise - How Much and What Kind?

What Are Some Types Of Exercises?

We have become too accustomed to our sedentary lifestyles. Taking out time for regular exercise, therefore, is not everybody’s priority.  For most people, the easiest way to make physical activity an everyday part of life is walking, using the stairs instead of elevators, or cycling instead of using their car to get around. While there are various types of exercises and physical activities that people can undertake, they must pick the right type of exercise for themselves. 

Most people will benefit from a combination of these types: 

  • Aerobic (or endurance exercises) – these include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, rowing, cycling, and biking. These activities result in increased heart rate and breathing. 
  •  Strength (or resistance training) – these are aimed at making your muscles stronger. Climbing stairs, dancing, hill climbing, lifting weights, or using resistance bands come under this category.
  • Balance exercises – these exercises make it easier to walk on uneven surfaces and help prevent falls. They improve the body balance of people. Tai chi (ancient Chinese art of gentle motion), heel-to-toes walking, balance walking, or exercises like standing on one leg come under such exercises. 
  • Flexibility – These are intended to make the muscles agile and flexible. Yoga, foam or lacrosse ball rolling, active stretching, passive stretching, dynamic stretching, etc, come under this category. Engaging in regular breathing exercises also improves body flexibility. It further helps in improving immunity, the digestive system, skin, and strengthening the lungs. 

Since individuals differ in physiological and psychological compositions, the type of exercise they need or can tolerate also differs.

How Much Exercise Is Required?

To essentially reap the most benefits, the ideal amount of exercise must be done. It differs according to age, lifestyle, and health condition of individuals. 

For children (aged 3-5 years)

At least 180 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, spread throughout the day, is encouraged among children of this age group. Playing is the easiest way to achieve this. They should not be restrained for long periods.

For children and teens
(aged 6-18 years)

This age group must get involved in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (mostly aerobic) across the week. This can include walking, running, skipping, swimming, playing basketball, cycling, and biking, etc. The time spent being inactive or sedentary must be reduced. 

For adults (aged 18-65 years)

Adults require a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. This can include swimming, biking, dancing, jogging, rollerblading, heavy gardening, etc. They must also reduce and replace sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity for increased health benefits. 

For people aged 65 years and above

Older adults must be involved in varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and moderate strength training on three or more days a week to enhance the functional capability of their bodies. 

Exercise - How Much and What Kind?
Diabetes and exercise

Exercising has proven especially beneficial with diabetes patients. Regular exercise controls blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes, contributes to weight loss, improves cardiovascular health. It also has considerable health benefits for people with type 1 diabetes, like improved muscle strength, improved insulin sensitivity, etc. For maximum health benefits, experts recommend diabetes patients engage in fast walking, cycling, or lap swimming. 

How Much Is Too Much?

Like all other things in life, there can be harmful effects of too much exercise. While moderate exercise can improve your immune system, excessive exercise can reduce it. If you engage in more than 300 minutes of exercise in a week, you might be pushing yourself towards physical burnout. Too much exercise can cause Overtraining Syndrome (OTS). OTS can also cause problems such as increased cardiovascular stress (whereby the baseline heart rate rises more than the normal level), impaired metabolism, low bone density, poor immunity, etc. In women, excessive exercise can cause loss of menstruation, osteoporosis, and eating disorders. In men, research suggests that it reduces their libido due to fatigue and lower testosterone levels. 

It is important to understand that you should not give up on exercising. The key is to start gradually and get the right amount spread over the week.


Mrs.Sripriya Ravi, M.Sc, Senior Dietitian

Mrs. Indumathi, B.Sc., Post Graduation, Dietitian