Staying active: How you can hit the recommended 150-300 minutes of exercise per week

SINGAPORE – Before 2020, human resources professional Melissa Low used to attend high-intensity interval training classes regularly with friends. Then, like many others in Singapore, the 30-year-old began working from home when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and became sedentary.

People aged 18 to 64 should clock between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, according to revised national guidelines released earlier this month by the Health Promotion Board and national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG).

But how feasible is it for working professionals to get active for between 22 and 43 minutes every day, or 30 minutes to an hour five days a week?

Ms Low managed it after joining a gym on May 31 this year.

The first few training sessions at the gym were brutal, she says, because she was less fit. It was difficult to push through the exercises set by a trainer.

After three weeks, she found it easier to get through workouts and now looks forward to gym sessions.

“Morning exercise helps me start the day right. Once you peel yourself out of bed, it’s great,” she says.

She now racks up at least 180 minutes of vigorous activity at the gym every week. She also tries to cycle instead of take a cab or drive on some days.

Fitness experts who spoke to The Straits Times say most people can go from couch potato to fit in a few months. The key steps are to choose a physical activity that you enjoy, swop sedentary behaviour for active habits, then build a routine that fits your lifestyle. It is also important to accept setbacks and not beat yourself up.

What is moderate activity?

Moderate-intensity exercise depends on one’s level of fitness, experts say.

The revised Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines note that one can talk in phrases and short sentences but cannot sing during a moderate-intensity physical activity. During vigorous activity, one has difficulty talking. A minute of vigorous activity counts as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

A coach from Active Health, an initiative by SportSG, says adults aged 18 to 64 should include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least two days a week. Such activities include weightlifting, resistance band exercises, yoga and pilates.

“This allows the individual to retain or even build lean muscle and become stronger,” says the expert, who was not named by Active Health. “Having sufficient strength is important for physical performance and many activities of daily living.”

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