Should I be doing more cardio? Less cardio? Is running better than walking? Is high intensity interval training (HIIT) better than weightlifting?


As physical therapists, these are questions that we hear ALL THE TIME. And know that you are not alone if you have these questions running through your head.


We are all struggling to figure out how best to support our bodies and reach our health and wellness goals.

There are a couple of different things to consider before I can answer this question for you. First, you have to know what your goals are. Are you exercising for general health maintenance? Are you looking to lose weight? Are you training for something? A marathon? A triathlon? Are you exercising because you have osteopenia or osteoporosis and want to increase your bone density? Are you exercising for your mental health and stress management? There are many different reasons to exercise and depending on your goal, that might change the frequency, intensity, and type of exercise that is best to help reach your goals. So first, ask yourself that question.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have put out guidelines for exercise to help us start to answer this question. They state:

“All healthy adults should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days per week.”


“Every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week.”

Now, most people will likely read that and ask “Well, what is the difference between moderate intensity and vigorous intensity?”. A quick and easy way to tell is by doing the “talk test”. If you’re breathing hard but can still easily have a conversation with someone, it’s moderate intensity. If you are only able to say a few words at a time before needing to breathe, then it’s vigorous intensity.

For general health benefits, this can be any type of movement or exercise and doesn’t have to be specific. However, my biggest piece of advice to my clients is to choose what you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy the type of exercise you choose, then realistically you probably won’t do it. It then doesn’t matter what the BEST type of exercise is because you aren’t doing it. If you take anything away from this blog post, hopefully it is the fact that you need to start with something you LIKE doing and you need to keep showing up. Even just 5-10 minutes at a time. Even on your worst days. Because eventually that consistency will turn into results. Consistency is key. A half-done workout is better than nothing.

If you want more information, click to read about how to “Move Your Way” or download the activity planner developed by the Department of Health and Human Services. And if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, stay tuned for next month’s post about prenatal exercise and any modifications you might have to make.

Additionally, always feel free to reach out to our physical therapists for help on how best to reach your goals. We can help you feel good again!


Written by: Rachael Wheeler, PT, DPT, OCS