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What is Moderate Exercise?

By Bethany Keene
Updated: Jan 29, 2024

It is generally recommended that people get at least 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise, for five days per week; this may also be translated into two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week. Measures of moderate exercise may vary; some may simply use perceived exertion to measure the exercise intensity, while others may count steps or use heart rate to determine the exercise level. In addition, what constitutes "moderate" exercise may vary from person to person, and it is important for each individual to determine his or her own appropriate level.

For those just beginning an exercise program after a long period of inactivity, or for those who are overweight or have health issues, moderate exercise may be closer to what would be considered "light" exercise for a person in better physical shape. It is a good idea to check with a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program. A doctor may also be able to recommend options for moderate intensity exercises.

For many people, moderate exercise puts them slightly out of breath, but still able to carry on a conversation. Light exercise generally does not cause one to be out of breath, while vigorous exercise may make it impossible to talk. This is an example of using perceived exertion to determine exercise intensity. Some examples of moderate exercises might include brisk walking, slow jogging, swimming, using a piece of fitness equipment such as an elliptical or stationary bike, or even an activity such as gardening.

A pedometer might also be used to determine moderate exercise. Studies have suggested that a moderate pace for many people is at approximately 100 steps per minute; for someone just starting out, this may be too challenging of a pace, but it is a good goal to have. A brisk walk can be a great break from a stressful day at work as well.

Finally, heart rate can be a measure for moderate exercise. This varies from person to person; it is often considered to be 50 to 70 percent of one's maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus one's age. For instance, a 20-year-old's maximum heart rate would be 200 beats per minute; 60 percent of 200 is 120 beats per minute. Vigorous exercise, by comparison, might be 70 to 85 percent of one's maximum heart rate. Again, this varies significantly from person to person, so it may be beneficial to ask a doctor for advice on one's target heart rate.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Kamchatka — On Sep 27, 2010

@lmorales - Thanks! I have been the same weight (210) for so long and now I'm just getting annoyed with it. I always felt stupid exercising at home, but my kids exercise with me and it's kind of a silly game. I use my two year old as a weight!

I hate the thought of keeping track of calories, but I've already cut soda out of my diet at home and begun to eat healthier and if 1 pound a week is the result, then I need to step it up. I would like to lose 3 pounds or more. I think moderate exercise is the key. Thanks again!

By lmorales — On Sep 27, 2010

@Kamchatka - You know, 5 pounds in 5 weeks is good! If you lose weight too fast it can have bad results - like your skin not stretching back into place. Exercise benefits are numerous, so just make sure you stick with exercising or your weight loss will eventually plateau.

"They" (and by "they" I mean the general public) say that writing down everything you eat will not only help you become more aware of what you're putting in your body, but it also doubles weight loss because of that awareness! Definitely good luck and you have me thinking about doing the same thing myself now.

By Kamchatka — On Sep 27, 2010

@julia2010 - Moderate exercise is the type of exercise that is often recommended in general as a good way to begin a healthy regimen. Regular exercise and a healthy diet, of course, will net you great results. It's also a good idea to check up and see what your calorie count should be. It's odd, but just today I began writing down what I eat - which is also said to help weight loss. I have lost 5 pounds in 5 weeks and I wasn't satisfied with that, so I have to go through new methods, I think.

By julia2010 — On Jun 09, 2010

These are good points - moderate exercise doesn't get much of the limelight but it's a very safe way to exercise - and not just for the elderly.

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