Skip to main content

15-20 Hours of Exercise a Week??

A recent study that has gotten some decent press claims that recommendations by health care professionals for exercise are WAY too modest, and that we really should be exercising 15-20 hours per week: Health study calls for five-fold boost to activity levels (15-20 hours a week of brisk walking or 6-8 hours a week of running). I actually agree with these recommendations, based both on the science and the general concept that we, as humans, are made to move our bodies, and that our current lifestyle of mostly sitting is not at all healthy or natural. And yes, I myself run, most weeks, at least 6-8 hours, sometimes more, and during peak training times weekly exercise can exceed 15 hours a week. exercise However, as a practicing physician, watching many, if not most, of my patients struggle with food, weight, general health and failure of movement, I am less enthusiastic about these 'recommendations'. Any time exercise is 'prescribed' it tends to immediately feel like a chore, and a lot of the joy is stripped away. I support the concept of exercise is medicine (, because I do feel regular exercise, in combination with a healthy diet has the ability to 'cure' a lot of 21st century lifestyle diseases. But most people don't WANT to take medicine, and prescribing it as such turns it into yet another painful chore on the endless task list that so many of us live with. I'd rather my patients find movement that they love, enjoy, that brings them joy and passion when they do it.

For me, that involves long days rambling in the mountains, running, hiking, and scrambling. When I head out on these adventures, I don't think, 'OK, here is my prescribed 5 hrs of exercise, that gets me 33% done for the week'. I think, 'hooray, I get to spend time OUTDOORS! IN MOVEMENT! WOW, I CANNOT WAIT! Yes, I get that I am on the far end of the spectrum in terms of my enjoyment with exercise and movement. I sometimes wish I could bottle the endorphin feeling I get, because I guarantee everyone would want to run if they experienced the same joy. That is how I want my patients to feel about movement, that they find a way to move their bodies with joy. I have a patient who loves dancing, and for her 'exercise' is dancing in her living room. Yes, she breaks a sweat and elevates her heart rate, but she does not set a timer and do a prescribed amount to fulfill a government standard. Seek out movement in your life and find out what makes you feel good. If you are lucky, the simple act of getting strong and healthy will be reward in itself to want to continue. If you don't get that endorphin high (and research shows that not all people do, that there may be a genetic component), keep searching until you find something that is fun for you. We are not meant to sit endlessly in chairs. Fulfill your genetic destiny! Keep moving! Dr. V and staff

About the author

Sarah Vlach