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A woman exercising on a treadmill in a fitness facility.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s to never take our health for granted.

The COVID-19 epidemic has turned life as we know it on its head, and amidst all of the messaging we receive to stay safe with proper hygiene, physical distancing measures, and mask-wearing, it’s equally important to also do what we can to stay healthy.

Evidence continues to emerge showing that our underlying health and lifestyle choices can play a significant role in how COVID-19 affects the body. This is encouraging because many of these factors are largely controllable through nutrition and exercise, effectively giving us some degree of power over our health outcomes in an otherwise fearful time.

In addition to empowerment, it also provides us with responsibility.

There’s no doubt that this pandemic is scary. However, so are the projected four to five million annual deaths that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates could be prevented through regular exercise.

While stay-at-home guidelines are important to help prevent virus transmission, they’ve unfortunately also made us collectively more sedentary. For anyone truly concerned about their health and safety, implementing and maintaining regular physical activity and exercise are a necessary priority.

These are known, non-negotiable pillars of a healthy lifestyle and can aid in the management of chronic health conditions that can put you at risk of more severe disease. It’s well-established that exercise supports:

  • Healthy weight management
  • Positive mood
  • Immune health
  • Blood-sugar control
  • Blood-pressure regulation
  • Heart health
  • Cognitive function
  • Improved sleep
  • Stress management
  • Bone strength
  • Reduced risk of certain cancers
  • Prevention of falls in older adults

As part of its global health initiative, the WHO recently released their updated physical activity recommendations, providing an outline for what can help us maintain the health of our hearts, bodies, and minds. Let’s take a closer look at what the recommendations say — and how we can implement them practically in our daily lives.

How much exercise do I need?

An effective exercise program is both balanced and appropriate for your individual level of fitness. Fitness builds over time and with consistency, and there’s no need to dive all-in with vigorous intensity every day to see benefit. It’s also important to recover well in between more intense sessions.

The updated recommendations emphasize that any activity incurs some benefit. However, aiming for specific targets for duration, frequency, and intensity can provide the maximum effects. The following is a summary outline of the WHO recommended exercise targets, broken down by age group, type of exercise, and intensity:

  Ages 5–7 Ages 18–64 Ages 65 and older
Moderate to vigorous aerobic 60 minutes per day 150–300 minutes per week

(or more for additional benefits)

 

  and or
Vigorous intensity aerobic 3 days per week 75–150 minutes per week

(or more for additional benefits)

  including including
Strengthening 3 days per week 2 days per week
      with
Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance 3 days per week
Limit Sedentary, recreational screen time Sedentary time

What do these targets look like in real life?

If you’re just getting started, it can be helpful to get some specific ideas and recommendations on how to actually implement these guidelines.

The targets outlined above can come from either structured exercise programs that drive you toward a specific goal (such as weight loss or athletic performance), or they can come from recreational activities or more for-fun workouts done for the sake of staying active and healthy. (Read this for more information on the difference between exercise programs and workouts.)

Here are some ideas of activities you could incorporate:

  Example Activities Life Time Offerings
Moderate to vigorous aerobic Walking

Jogging

Dancing

Tennis

Frisbee

Gardening

Ice skating

Kayaking

Warrior Sculpt studio class

STRIKE studio class

Kettlebell Kombine studio class

GTX Conditioning

Vigorous intensity eerobic Swimming

Soccer

HIIT (high-intensity interval training)

Basketball

Jump rope

 

UltraFit

XTREME studio class

Ringside studio class

ALPHA Conditioning

FIRE HIIT yoga class

AMP, EDG, and PWR cycle classes

Strengthening Weight lifting

Shoveling snow

Heavy yardwork, such as digging

Hill walking

Stair climbing

Resistance bands

Pilates

ALPHA Strength

GTX Strength

Reformer and mat Pilates

Kettlebell Kombine studio class

Life Barre studio class

Gluteus MAXout studio class

UPPER RX studio class

Barbell Strength studio class

FLOW yoga class

Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance Yoga

Pilates

Tai chi

Qi Gong

Reformer and mat Pilates

En Barre studio class

ROOT yoga class

SOL yoga class

FLOW yoga class

For kids, the Life Time Kids Academy offers age-appropriate progressive learning classes, including Yoga, Gymnastics, Climb, Dance, and Fit curriculums, as well as drop-in classes such as Sports Skills and Cheer. Other ideas to keep kids active include jumping rope, swimming, playing tag, going to the trampoline park, playing on the monkey bars, climbing the playground, or dropping in for a pickup game at Life Time Sport.

How does this breakdown across the week?

If you’re working to be more consistent with your routine, here’s an example schedule to follow. This hits the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, plus two days of strengthening activity, and two days of multicomponent functional activities, which are especially encouraged for older adults.

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Moderate to vigorous aerobic (adjust intensity to your current fitness level) 30-minute walk 60-minute GTX Conditioning class 60-minute Kettlebell Kombine class
Strengthening 30-minute Pilates class
Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance 20 minutes stretching and yoga

If you prefer to stay active more on your own, here is how you might tweak the schedule:

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Moderate to vigorous aerobic (adjust intensity to your current fitness level) 30-minute walk 60 minutes gardening, yardwork, or shoveling 60 minutes ice skating or kayaking
Strengthening 30 minutes Pilates, streaming class from home 60-minute virtual strength training program
Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance 20 minutes stretching and yoga

If you’re a bit more advanced, here’s an example schedule to follow. This one includes more vigorous intensity exercise and exceeds the upper end of the recommended time targets to provide additional health benefits.

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic 30-minute jog
Vigorous intensity aerobic 60-minute ALPHA Strength class 60-minute ALPHA Strength class 60-min ALPHA Conditioning class
Strengthening 60-minute Gluteus MAXout studio class
Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance En Barre studio class ROOT yoga class

And if you want to tweak the example above to do more at-home activity, you could try this:

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic 30-minute jog
Vigorous intensity aerobic 60-minute video personal training session 30-minute swim + 30 minutes shoveling snow 30 minutes of HIIT intervals
Strengthening Repeat Monday’s workout on your own at the club
Multicomponent training — functional strength and balance 30 minutes Pilates, streaming class from home Video stream a yoga class

Wrapping Up

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of physical activity, your road to better health begins with a single step forward. Start small and build consistency and momentum over time.

It could be as simple as walking one lap around your neighborhood today. Or it could be as dedicated as signing up for a five-days-per week formal exercise program with a trainer.

Just know this: Physical activity and exercise should add energy, joy, and vitality to your life. The clear evidence of its effects on your health outcomes based on the updated WHO guidelines makes it even that much more rewarding.

Whether in a group or on your own, at the club or at home, face-to-face or virtually — we’re here to help.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Training Facebook group.

samantha-mckinney-life-time-training-registered-dietician
Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Samantha McKinney has been a dietitian, trainer and coach for over 10 years. At first, her interests and experience were in a highly clinical setting in the medical field, which ended up laying a strong foundation for understanding metabolism as her true passion evolved: wellness and prevention. She hasn’t looked back since and has had the honor of supporting Life Time’s members and nutrition programs in various roles since 2011.

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