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How much (or little) exercise is enough?

Sometimes the US government can quietly update a publication that makes a huge difference for a lot of people–in this case, people who are interested in staying healthy as part of everyday life, as easily as possible.

Being physically active is the single biggest biggest action that people of all ages can take. But do you have to be an “exercise junkie” to stay healthy? How little can you work out and still get results? And can a “workout” be kind of … laid back and easy . . . and not like this?

guy with veins sticking out

The government document is Health & Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans version 2.0. It was updated for the first time since 2008 with the results of ten years of evidence-based research on the exercise needed to reduce chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease across your whole lifespan.

Recommended activity guidelines

Before we get into actual numbers, it’s important to recognize that exercise is no longer considered something for younger people. Instead, it is clearly identified as a lifelong activity, with different goals and suggested activity levels for different age ranges:

  1. PRESCHOOL (3-5 years). Active play through out the day that encourages growth and development.
  2. CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS (6-17 years). Activities that are enjoyable, offer variety and lead to aerobic development, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening. One hour daily of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  3. ADULTS. Less sitting, more moving, and two sessions per week of muscle-building activity. For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes/week of moderate activity, or 75 minutes/week of vigorous aerobic activity.
  4. SENIORS. Activity as physical condition allows. As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multi-component physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

What does this have to do with bicycling?

First, if an activity isn’t enjoyable, you’re not going to stay with it. And the freedom of biking is well-known…

JFK: “Nothing can compare to the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle.”

Now let’s look at those high-sounding activity numbers for adults in a cycling context.

  • RECREATIONAL CYCLING (150 moderate activity minutes). Once a week, take any car to an interesting place to ride, pull out your full-size folding bikes (like the CHANGE 811 rugged hybrid) from the trunk or back seat, and explore the area together at a leisurely pace for part of an afternoon.
  • RECREATIONAL CYCLING (75 strenuous activity minutes). Take any car to a local mountain biking venue, pull out your full-size folding mountain bike (like the CHANGE 812) and ride up to the top of something steep for an hour. Enjoy the rush on the way down.
  • CYCLE COMMUTING (150 moderate activity minutes). Ride your bike to work on a safe route for 15 minutes without breaking a sweat. Ride back. Repeat daily for the week. If you can’t find a safe route from where you live, take your car to someplace else–with plenty of free parking!–pull out your fill-size folding bike (like the CHANGE 702 commuter bike), and ride in from there.

Have bike, will travel. And explore, stay healthy, etc.

And just like that, you’re living the recommended healthy lifestyle.

That’s why these guidelines are such fabulous news. They’re clear, they’re backed by 10 years of scientific data, and they’re easily achievable with a good bike. Are you just one good bike away from the lifestyle you want?

Bob Forgrave's Signature

Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.


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