Getting your RDA of Exercise

***image1***Do you pay attention to your RDA of certain nutrients? The Recommended Daily Allowance can be found on the labels of most foods. But what about your RDA of physical activity? Do you know what amount of exercise is right for you, and do you get enough? A client recently approached me, bewildered by her inability to lose weight and body fat, and "tone up," despite her consistent exercise regimen of exercising for about 30 minutes on three days per week. That amount of exercise, coupled with a healthy diet, she thought, should have resulted in at least a small drop in weight. Unfortunately, however, the scale had not moved in two months and she was quite frustrated.

The Food Guide Pyramid gives guidelines for including whole grains; vegetables and fruits; proteins; dairy products; and fats, sweets, and oils. The revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 also includes physical activity recommendations for adults. When I discussed these recommendations with my client, she was surprised. Here’s why.

To simply stay healthy, reducing the risk of chronic disease in adulthood, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. That’s at least four days a week – already my client fell short!

To manage body weight and prevent gradual weight gain in adulthood, the recommendation is for at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days. Here again my client fell short – this time in duration as well as frequency of exercise.

To sustain weight loss in adulthood, the guidelines recommend participation in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity. Boy did we fall short on this one!

Now, if you are like myself and this particular client, you probably gasp at the thought of setting aside 60-90 minutes daily to exercise. Lack of time is indeed the most common barrier to exercise that I encounter. However, the physical activity recommendation of 60 minutes does not have to be completed all at once. Several ten-minute bouts of activity daily can meet the guidelines. I encourage clients to concern themselves first with the frequency of their exercise, and try to increase the number of days that they set aside time to be physically active. I suggest that my clients work harder – more towards the "vigorous" side – on the days that they can set aside up to 30 minutes, then decrease the intensity back to a more moderate level on the days they can give a full hour or more.

So what constitutes "moderate" or "vigorous" physical activity? Here are some examples . . .

Moderate activity may include hiking, light gardening or yardwork, dancing, golf (walking and carrying your clubs), bicycling less than 10 mph, walking at 3.5 mph, weight-lifting (a general light workout), and stretching. These activities will benefit you, in terms of reducing your risk of chronic disease, if performed for at least 30 minutes on at least four days a week. To manage or lose weight, these types of activities must be performed for at least 60 minutes on at least four days. To maintain weight loss, these activities must be performed for at least 60 minutes daily.

Vigorous activity may include running or jogging at 5 mph, bicycling greater than 10 mph, swimming (slow freestyle laps), aerobics, walking at more than 4.5 mph, heavy yardwork such as chopping wood, heavy weight-lifting, and basketball. You will see results from the activities if you perform them for 60 minutes on most days in order to manage or lose weight, or for at least 60 minutes daily to maintain weight loss. Remember that vigorous activity maybe more appropriate on days when your time is limited, and moderate intensity activities will suffice if you have more time.

These recommendations can seem overwhelming and unattainable. Just remember frequency first . . . if you are currently exercising three or four days a week and are unhappy with your results (assuming, of course, that you are following a healthy diet and watching your portion size!), something needs to be increased – either the frequency, duration, or the intensity of your exercise. If exercising for longer periods of time is unrealistic for you, try increasing the frequency of workouts or the intensity.

Getting your RDA of exercise doesn’t have to be impossible!

Meredith Nelson, M.Ed, is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, Inc, on Sullivan’s Island. Offering group fitness classes, PrimeTime Spin, private yoga, personal training, and monthly gym membership, Meredith divides her time between the gym on Sullivan’s Island and limited in-home training here on Daniel Island, where she resides along with her husband and two cats. Meredith can be reached with your fitness questions at 883-0101, or

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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