Most healthy people should aim for at least 30 minutes, five times a week, of moderately intense activity such as brisk walking, plus 10 to 15 minutes or so of strength-training (digging in your garden counts) 2 or 3 days a week. This is enough exercise to help you lower your risk for health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and osteoporosis, and to prevent the natural loss of muscle mass that slows metabolism and contributes to weight gain in your thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond.
If you’re trying to lose weight, more activity is better. An hour or even 90 minutes of moderate exercise, or 1/2 hour of vigorous activity such as jogging, strenuous aerobics, or fast-paced cycling, is ideal. Of course, anything you do is better than nothing, and consistency counts. Fitting in 30 minutes most days of the week, even in 10-minute bursts, is better than playing the weekend warrior by overdoing it once or twice a week.
If you’re the type that just doesn’t enjoy going to the gym or using a treadmill, choose an activity you enjoy that you can do for 10 to 30 minutes or longer and that raises your heart rate. This could be dancing, playing tennis, chopping enough wood to heat your house for the winter, or lining up strenuous yard work or housework that feels like a workout.