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physical activity facts

You know physical activity is good for you, but do you know why? It can help:

  • Control your weight.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles.
  • Improve your mental health and mood.
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities.
  • Improve balance to help prevent falls.
  • Increase your chances of living longer.

Baked Asian Chicken Thighs

Roasted Vegetable Guacamole

Creamy Slow-Cooker Oatmeal with Pears & Walnuts

Sweet & Sour Chicken Meatballs

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

Hearty Fruit & Nut Muffins

Balsamic-Maple Acorn Squash

Farm-Fresh Quesadillas

Hearty Meat Ragoût

How much physical activity do you need?

Adults need:

At least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.


1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (like jogging) every week and muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Aerobic activities should be spread throughout the week.

Kids and teens need:

At least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.

Longer amounts of physical activity and more vigorous activities provide greater health benefits. See examples of moderate and vigorous physical activities at left.

Three-part plan

To be fit, include the following three types of physical activities in your plan—each provides different benefits:

  1. Aerobic activities speed up your heart rate and breathing. They improve heart and lung fitness. Examples: brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and aerobic dancing.
  2. Strength-building, resistance and weight-bearing activities work your bones and muscles against gravity. They help build and maintain your muscles and bones. Examples: carrying a child, lifting weights, doing pushups and walking.
  3. Balance and stretching activities enhance your physical stability and reduce your risk of injuries. Examples: dancing, yoga, martial arts, tai chi and stretching. Learn some stretching tips.

Fitting in physical activity—it’s flexible!

If you’re wondering how to fit physical activity into your busy day, relax. You can get your daily activity all at once or total it up in periods as short as 10 minutes.

You can get your physical activity through planned exercise such as brisk walking, swimming or aerobics, or through everyday activities such as taking the stairs, cleaning the house or walking the dog—or a combination. All activity counts!

For example, to reach a 60-minute goal, you could walk for 30 minutes during your lunch hour, dance with your kids for 20 minutes, and vacuum for 10 minutes.

More ways to fit fitness into your day

  • Work in more walking. Walking is an ideal exercise for just about everyone. A planned “power walk” is terrific, but so are short stretches of walking throughout the day. Park in the farthest spot, walk down the hall to talk with a co-worker, take a walk during your break and circle the field while you watch your kids’ games.
  • Schedule it at work. Join an “express” aerobics, pilates or yoga class on your lunch hour or take advantage of an on-site workout room. Walk and stretch during your breaks and lunch hour.
  • Master the stairs. Skip the elevator and walk up the stairs. Walk up the escalator, too.
  • Make fitness fun! Remember how great it felt to be active as a kid? Recapture that fun feeling by flying a kite, dancing, or playing tag or basketball with your kids.
  • Rekindle an old interest. Join an adult kickball or softball league, take tap dancing lessons or get out that old tennis racket.
  • Take advantage of TV time. While you watch, use a treadmill or stationary bike, lift weights, do calisthenics or stretch.
  • Get the family on board. Hike your local nature trail, go bowling or go in-line skating.
  • Get fit around the house. Vacuum, sweep, wash windows, mow the lawn, tend the garden, rake leaves, shovel snow or wash the car.

Before you get started

Before beginning any new exercise program, see your doctor or an exercise professional for screening tests and program advice, especially if you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50, have a health condition or have been inactive for some time. Get tips for starting a fitness plan.

Types of physical activities

Vigorous physical activities:

  • Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
  • Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
  • Swimming (freestyle laps)
  • Aerobics
  • Walking very fast (4½ miles per hour)
  • Heavy yard work, such as chopping wood
  • Weight lifting (vigorous effort)
  • Basketball (competitive)

Moderate physical activities:

  • Walking briskly (about 3½ miles per hour)
  • Hiking
  • Gardening/yard work
  • Dancing
  • Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
  • Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
  • Weight training (general light workout)
physical activity facts
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