Here's how much exercise you should be doing each day, says expert: It's ‘less than you might think'

Fitness trainer Stephanie Mellinger explains that people often overestimate the amount of exercise they need. She provides tips on maximizing the benefits of minimal weekly exercise.

Here's how much exercise you should be doing each day, says expert: It's ‘less than you might think'

Exercising is crucial for improving health and increasing lifespan, but finding time for it can be difficult in our busy lives.

As a fitness trainer, I often see people aiming for at least 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day. While this is a great goal, the minimum amount of exercise required is actually less than you might think.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults aged 18 and above should engage in at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, which translates to just 21 minutes a day.

For those who are short on time, I always recommend cardio exercises that elevate heart and breathing rates. Cardio can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers.

If you're new to cardio, here are some tips to get started:

  1. Use a heart rate monitor to track your heart's activity. This is especially important for beginners to ensure they are not overexerting themselves. Consult your doctor for a recommended heart rate range. If that's not available, start at 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, which falls under moderate intensity as per WHO guidelines. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you're 40, your maximum heart rate is 180 beats per minute (BPM). Going beyond this can strain your heart. If you don't have a heart rate monitor, aim for an intensity level where it's challenging to hold a conversation but still possible to talk.

  2. Set realistic goals. Many people believe they need to set intense goals like working out for five hours a week or training for a half marathon. However, I've found that starting with small, achievable goals yields more success. For example, begin with a 15-minute daily walk. Once you've consistently achieved your smaller goals for a week or two, gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise until you reach at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week. The best workout is the one you can maintain consistently.

  3. Engage in activities you enjoy. Instead of dreading exercise, find activities that you genuinely like and that fit your lifestyle. It could be dancing, swimming, playing tennis, or anything else that brings you joy. I also recommend trying different activities to avoid boredom. Until exercise becomes a habit, plan a variety of activities that you look forward to. This will keep you motivated and help you cross-train your body.

  4. Find a workout buddy. If you're a social person, having a partner can help keep you accountable and make workouts more enjoyable. Consider joining an adult sports team or recreation league if you prefer a community or team environment.

Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging, but the long-term benefits are worth it. With consistency and dedication, you'll soon experience the positive effects of cardiovascular exercise on your health and fitness.

Stephanie Mellinger, a certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, stretching and flexibility specialist, and nutritionist, is the founder of Omnia Fit, a fitness company. She also writes for HealthDay. You can follow Stephanie on Instagram [insert URL].

Don't miss out on our new newsletter that offers insights on becoming smarter and more successful in your finances, work, and life. Sign up here!

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which provides regular investors with the billionaire's top advice, do's and don'ts, and three key investing principles in a clear and simple guidebook.