The Kaiser Permanente study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, examined nearly 50,000 adults with Covid-19. The research found that those who met the goal of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines – of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity – had significantly lower incidences of hospitalization, admission to intensive care and death due to Covid-related disease19.
The guidelines, which are the same as the World Health Organization guidelines used by many countries, are based on research supporting the ability of physical activity to boost immune function, reduce systemic inflammation, improve lung and cardiovascular health and improve mental health.
With all of these benefits that regular movement brings, it may not be surprising that physical activity following these guidelines also reduces the severity of Covid-19 symptoms. Indeed, acute Covid disease is just one of the many potential negative impacts of sedentary behavior, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers. .
To date, risk factors for severe Covid-19, as identified by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include being of old age, being male, and being have underlying comorbidities, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
To reach the 150-minute exercise threshold in a week, you need to exercise just under 22 minutes per day. For someone who doesn’t exercise regularly, this can feel a bit overwhelming. But 22 minutes a day doesn’t have to mean signing up for a new gym membership, investing in a treadmill, or completely overhauling your schedule.
With the right strategies, you can reach your daily exercise goal with very little disruption to your lifestyle, which is important for being able to maintain your new level of activity.
Here are five practical and sustainable strategies to help you get 22 minutes of activity a day.
Important Note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you experience pain.
1. Take regular walks
Because walking is so accessible, it’s easy to reduce its benefits. The reality, however, is that brisk walking is one of the most underrated, health-enhancing, fat-burning exercises available to mankind.
You probably already walk at least a little each day. Maybe you walk to your mailbox or from your car to your office. Would it be possible for you to add a five or 10 minute walk around the neighborhood before receiving the mail or entering your office?
Do you have a dog that you walk every day? Could you add time to your daily walks with your dog?
If you don’t already take regular walks, is there an activity that you enjoy and would like to do more often than you might associate with walking, like talking on the phone with a friend or family member or listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music? By associating an activity that you enjoy with your walk, you will want it to be done more regularly and will make it easier for you to add walking to your daily schedule.
2. Practice short bursts of activity
The physical activity guidelines do not say that you must exercise for long periods of time each day. What’s important is that you hit the 150-minute goal every week. You can divide your activities according to the time frames that best suit your lifestyle.
For people with more sedentary careers, it may be easier to do shorter periods of exercise. When you break 22 minutes into smaller blocks of time throughout the day, you’ll be surprised how quickly that time passes.
How about doing six short, four-minute bursts of exercise? At 24 minutes, you would have two minutes to spare. The same goes for eight sessions of just three minutes of exercise.
If that’s right for you, check out this article for specific ways to exercise for a few minutes every hour throughout the day.
3. Work smarter, not longer
When it comes to training, the standard belief is that we need at least an hour a day. A 2016 study, among others, led many to believe that the ideal daily exercise goal was 60 to 75 minutes. However, more recent research has debunked these previous studies, finding that they were based on self-reported data that was flawed due to people not remembering their actual activity levels.
Training 22 minutes a day is more than enough to reach the weekly threshold of 150 minutes. An effective and heart-healthy way to get those minutes is by performing a quick interval training session consisting of four sets of five exercises, each one minute long. These could include bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, hip bridges, and jumps. Add a few minutes of warm-up and cooldown and you’ll easily hit your 22 minute mark.
You can read more about interval training here.
4. Return to the game
When you were a child, did you play sports? What were your favorite outdoor activities? By returning to the fun activities of your youth, you can add more exercise to your life in a fun and energizing way.
If you were playing basketball in school, could you get back to it by playing in an adult league or finding a group that has regular pickup matches? Maybe you started martial arts when you were a kid but never hit your black belt. What is holding you back now? Is there a recreational activity that you and your significant other or a good friend could do together, such as tennis, golf or cycling?
Or maybe you have your own kids who play sports. Could you practice with them? If they’re smaller, playing games like tag or hopscotch will make your blood pump while you have a good time together. For more ideas on exercising as a family, read this.
5. Track your activity
Do you really know how much moderate to vigorous activity you engage in every day? Much like the people in the studies I mentioned above who poorly remembered and underreported their physical activity, you might be ignoring your own activity level.
There are a myriad of wearable technology options to track your activity. You might even wear one now. Whether you use technology or a good old-fashioned pen and paper, when we track our business we not only keep a more accurate record, we take personal accountability a step further.
Accountability goes a long way in helping us stay on track with fitness goals. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people walk almost an extra mile per day when using an activity tracker on their phone or watch. And study participants who had fitness trackers that provided exercise prompts did even more.
Regardless of how you track your fitness – with wearable technology or just by keeping a journal – recording your progress will help keep you on track.
If you are new to regular exercise or have not been active daily for some time, see the CNN Fitness, but better newsletter, designed to get you back into the rhythm of a healthy, active routine.