How much exercise should you get a week?

June 1, 2021 Chiropractor 0

Most of us know that regular exercise is good for your overall health. But what should your goals be on how much exercise to get per week? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both published guidelines based on current scientific evidence for physical activity.

The USDHHS published Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition in 2018 and can be found here:

The WHO published the 2020 Guidelines for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior which can be found here:

The guidelines for each are very similar and if you’re interested in more information, you should take a look at both. The one published by the USDHHS is a little more reader friendly but longer, and the WHO one is structured more as a scientific article.  Both offer great information. Let us look at the general guidelines for how much physical activity we should get each week.

Recommendations for Physical Activity per Week


3-5 years old               Promote physical activity throughout the day

5-17 years old             60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity

                                    Include activities that include muscle training/bone strengthening

Adults (18 – 64)          150 – 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity or,

                                    75 – 150 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic intensity activity

                                    Or a combination of moderate and vigorous to be equivalent

                                    Resistance muscle training at least 2 times per week

                                    Additional health benefits for going over the 300 or 150 minute threshold

                                    Doing some activity is better than doing nothing

Seniors (65+)             Strive for same as adults

                                    Should include balance training to routine

                                    Should determine amount of effort to level of fitness

                                    Take into account chronic illnesses which could change effort levels

Pregnant Women      150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity

If they routinely did vigorous activity prior to pregnancy they can continue to perform them during pregnancy

Postpartum women should consult their physician about returning to regular activities

People with Chronic Health Conditions or Disabilities

                                    Should strive for adult guidelines if condition/disability allows

                                    Should avoid inactivity even if not able to meet guidelines

Should be in consultation with their healthcare provider about what types of exercises/activities would be appropriate and safe for them to participate

Definitions of Activity

            There are two ways these studies measure the intensity of physical activity. The first type is a metabolic equivalent of task (MET) and the second is the perceived exertion scale (PES).

METs              Measurement of intensity of physical activity. Specifically, it is oxygen used by a person in milliliters per minute per kilogram body mass divided by 3.5. Typically a MET of 1 is considered a person at rest. A MET of 4 is 4 times harder than resting. There are charts available that have common activities and their MET score (  For example walking at 3.0 mph on a flat surface is considered to be 3 METS, where jogging at 5.6 mph is considered to be 8.8 METs.

PES                 Measurement of intensity of physical activity that is relative to each person. It is on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 is no exertion (sitting/rest), and 10 is a person’s maximal effort. Higher levels (9 or 10) can only be held for a short period of time. This scale is different for each person and is based on a person’s fitness level. A person new to exercise might feel like walking at 3.5 mph on a small incline is a 7/10 perceived exertion level, whereas a marathon runner may only feel like a 3/10.

Now we will see what the differences are between moderate and vigorous levels of aerobic activity.

Moderate intensity     Should be 3 to <6 METs (or 3 to 6 times harder than resting). Or a 4-6 on a perceived exertion scale.  These activities can include walking at a brisk pace, mowing the lawn, a gentle bike ride, or cleaning the house. Your heart rate should elevate and your breathing should get heavier, but you should be able to still talk to someone.

Vigorous intensity     Should be 6.0 or more METs or a 7-8 on a perceived exertion scale. These activities can include jogging, swimming, playing basketball, ballroom dancing, or shoveling snow by hand. Your heart rate and breathing should be elevated, it should be hard to say full sentences but can still talk.

There are many benefits of regular physical activity. Inactivity can cause a 20 to 30% increase risk of death overall. Regular physical activity should be encouraged in everyone. Talk with your chiropractor on how to safely make healthy changes in your life.