How much exercise do you really need?

Meredith Nelson; PrimeTime Fitness, LLC

The American Heart Association recommends that Americans “get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.”  For moderate exercise, that equates to 30 minutes a day for five days a week.   For vigorous exercise, that means 25 minutes of vigorous exercise for three days a week.  The AHA website also states that adults can “gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.”*

The American Cancer Society recently updated their guidelines for the recommended amount of exercise for adults to state that one should strive to “get 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these).”  The recommendation goes on to state that “getting to or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.”**

How did it make you feel to read those numbers and recommendations?  Is your head spinning?  Are you thinking “I’ll never get to 300 minutes (five hours) a week, so why bother?”  Are you feeling overwhelmed about taking that first step?

I am in no way discounting either the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.  Their recommendations, although slightly different, are golden.  But before you write off these numbers as being lofty and unrealistic, I think it’s important to consider a few things, such as your current level of exercise, your amount of time available to exercise, and of course, your own personal goals.

  • What is your current level of exercise? 

If you are a beginning exerciser, don’t let these large numbers scare you into remaining sedentary.  Start small – even ten minutes a day is better than nothing.  Add five minutes a week and within a month you’ll be up to 30 minutes!

For the more fit, I agree that up to an hour a day, five days or more each week, is going to be the most beneficial.

  • What are your goals?

Do you want to reduce your risk of chronic disease?   Lose weight?  Perform better in a specific sport? Each of these goals calls for different amounts and intensities of exercise.  To reduce your risk of disease, you can probably accomplish that by simply meeting the minimum requirements (remember to build up, if you are just starting your exercise program!).  To lose weight, you may need to strive to go beyond the minimum.  And to improve in a sport, you may need to exercise up to several hours a day (depending on the sport and level of performance)!

  • How much time can you set aside for exercise?

We all have the same amount of time in one day, so it’s not always a matter of “finding” time, but instead, of “making the time.”  If you can honestly say that you don’t have much time every day to exercise, then you may need to make the minutes count and increase the intensity as opposed to the duration, and exercise at a more vigorous level for a shorter amount of time.  However, if you can make time every day to exercise, you can keep the intensity lower but for a longer duration or more days per week.

With all this being said, there are two caveats:

  • Exercise – no matter how intense – does not work unless it is done consistently.  If you are not consistent in your activity, you will not see results.  Bottom line… exercise has to be performed on MOST days of the week, no matter what the intensity level.  Try not to go more than two days in a row with no exercise!
  • Until now, all I have said is that you need to “exercise.”  But what does that mean, exactly?  There isn’t enough room in this entire publication to address that – so I’ll just say that your body loves variety, and will respond to change.  The more you can mix up your exercise, the better, and the more quickly you will see results.  If you go for a run/walk one day, try lifting weights the next.  No gym?  No problem – the internet is full of bodyweight exercises that can be done at home with no equipment.  Throw in some yoga or cycling. 

Bottom line:  Sweat.  Get a little winded.  Everyday, if possible.  And mix it up!

*   taken from the American Heart Association website

**taken from the American Cancer Society website

Meredith Nelson is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, LLC, and has been in the fitness industry since 1992.  She can help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals either in person or online!

Show Your Heart (and theirs) Some Love!

February is a month to celebrate the heart . . . . not only do we have Valentine’s Day, but it is also National Heart Month.  What better time to show appreciation for those you love, but also for the ticker that keeps you going … your heart!

This February marks the 56th consecutive occurrence of National Heart Month, established by Lyndon B. Johnson nine years after suffering a heart attack.  Although the focus of this national designation is on awareness and prevention of heart disease, the American Heart Association encourages everyone to take care of their hearts all year long.  And then of course there’s Valentine’s Day – an opportunity to proclaim and show our love for that special someone.  But why save it all for just one day?  There are plenty of ways you can show your loved ones how much they mean to you, and at the same time, give your heart a little attention as well, any day of the year.  Take, for example, the following heart-healthy activities . . .

Splurge on some heart-healthy indulgences.

  • Have a glass of red wine with some dark (not milk) chocolates – in moderation, of course!  They both contain anti-oxidants, preventing the effects of aging and reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Take above-mentioned dark chocolate, add fresh strawberries, and voila!  A romantic dipping dessert.  Along with the healthy attributes of dark chocolate, berries also contain heart-healthy nutrients – anti-oxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C – and help prevent cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Want to order take out and enjoy a cozy dinner at home?  Order a veggie pizza and go light on the cheese (our fave is the Charred Veggie pizza – add figs – from Coastal Crust), or order sushi instead.  There’s something about feeding each other with chopsticks that can be a bit whimsically romantic.
  • And if you haven’t had enough DIY during Covid, do an online search for a recipe that calls for your favorite foods and cook dinner together!

Go on an online “love me, love my heart” shopping spree – and shop local! 

Treat yourself and your loved one to some things with which might motivate you to exercise and improve your heart health, such as:

  • Exercise apparel – the latest styles are actually attractive and can be worn beyond the gym walls!
  • Heart rate monitor/Fitbit/Garmin device – what a great way to make sure you and your workout buddy are exercising within your target zones for the most effective workout.
  • New athletic/running shoes. 
  • Subscription to the Pelaton app (no Pelaton needed!)
  • Yoga mat, blocks, & strap.
  • Pickleball or disc golf set.
  • Handheld weights, resistance bands, stability balls . . . exercise equipment that you can use at home and avoid the gym.

Some of my favorite local places to shop – masked in-person, or even on-line at most places, are Play It Again Sports, Fleet Feet, Charleston Fitness Equipment, and Blue Sky Endurance.

Get some exercise together!

And now that you’ve gotten the gear… put it to use!  We are so fortunate to enjoy mild temperatures year-round, which makes it ideal for most of these activities:

Take a walk. Enter a local socially-distanced race (there are a handful that have not been Covid-cancelled) together.  Go for a bike ride.  Spend an afternoon in a state or county park, exploring the trails by foot or bicycle.  Learn to play pickleball or disc golf (YouTube offers excellent tutorials). Go for a swim in the newly renovated Martin Luther King indoor pool downtown.  Make love (talk about burning calories!).  Kiss (it’s actually good for your teeth – I’ve heard that kissing stimulates the production of saliva to wash food from your teeth, and also lowers the level of acid that causes decay).

And of course, with so many personal trainers WFH these days, it’s easier than ever to find a trainer who is compatible with you and eager to help you meet your fitness goals.  .

So this month, take some time to show your loved one how much you really do care . . . about them and their health.  Remember, a healthy heart is a happy heart!

Meredith Nelson, M.Ed, is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, LLC.  Meredith has spent more than 20 years in the fitness industry, from owning her own gym, to acting as Director of Training at the local Gold’s Gym Mt. Pleasant, and now offering her private training services in her home studio or virtually. Providing private and small group training, outdoor boot camps, TPI Golf Fitness, and yoga (both traditional and Yoga for Golfers), Meredith is ready to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals.  She can be reached at