The Basics: Overview
Regular physical activity is good for everyone’s health! Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving.
The ultimate goal is that you aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or thirty minutes each day. In addition to this goal, another goal is for at least 2 days a week, do activities that strengthen your muscles. Getting to these goals may seem daunting if you are inactive, and trust me, you are not alone! Millions across the country report no leisure time for physical activity, but incorporating it into your daily routine will provide numerous benefits.
If you haven’t been active before, start slowly. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits! Starting small is a great way to get started in your fitness journey. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time. Remember, this process can take time and you should not feel pressure to immediately reach your fitness goals. It is best to set realistic expectations for yourself and achieve smaller goals, which will feed into you accomplishing your ultimate goal.
What kinds of activity should I do?
To get all the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
- Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and get your heart beating faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.
- Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Examples include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups.
Use these resources to learn more about physical activity for:
The Basics: Health Benefits
What are the benefits of physical activity?
Physical activity increases your chances of living longer because it decreases your risk of developing disease. In addition to decreasing your risk of developing cancer, physical activity can also:
- Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
- Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
- Prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
Physical activity also provides many other benefits to your mental health and overall well being:
- Boost your mood
- Help you sleep better
- Make your bones, muscles, and joints healthier
- Lower your chances of becoming depressed
- Lower your risk of falls and reduce arthritis pain
- Help you have fun and feel better about yourself
Is physical activity for everyone?
Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out of shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that work for you.
The Basics: Health Conditions
What if I have a health condition?
If you have a health condition like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, physical activity can help you manage it. Ask your doctor what types of activity are best for you. Get tips on physical activity and diabetes and learn how physical activity helps lower high blood pressure.
If you have a disability, you can find safe, fun ways to get active. Talk with your doctor if you need help choosing the best activities for you. If you care for an individual with a disability, be sure to assist them with incorporating physical activity into their routine. Physical activity is necessary for every human, and each person should do what they can to incorporate it into their routine, even if your workout looks extremely different than another individual due to disability. You can also use these tips to stay active with a disability.
If you’re overweight or have obesity, getting active can help you stop gaining weight and lower your risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes. Getting your daily exercise can seem like a chore, or perhaps you get short of breath or tired extremely quickly when working out. No matter your situation, you are not alone. Overcoming these obstacles can be difficult but starting small can be the key difference between you finally sticking to a fitness routine, or calling it quits. Do not overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations and find out more about how you can stay active at any size.
Take Action: Get Started
If you haven’t been active before, start out slowly and add new activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, do them longer and more often. If you’re not sure where to start, use this tool to build a weekly plan.
There are numerous free resources that can help you start your journey. Couch to 5K is a great option for those looking to get into running, and Active 10 is an app that records your steps anonymously. There are various other apps that accomplish similar things. Browse various apps to find one that works for you and your needs.
Choose activities that you enjoy.
Lots of things count as physical activity! Find things you really like to do. Play games like tennis or basketball, take a yoga or martial arts class, or just dance around your living room. Ask your friends to join you.
Everyday activities can add up to big health benefits. You can:
- Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
- Ride a bike to work — or just for fun
- Do push-ups during commercial breaks in TV shows
Have fun with your family.
You can be a role model for children and other family members. Encourage your whole family to get active outside — go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.
If you can’t get active outside, watch this 2-minute video for ways your family can get active indoors.
If someone you love has trouble making time for physical activity, use these tips to help your loved one get more active.
Take Action: Build Muscles
Strengthen your muscles.
Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. Strengthening your muscles, or strength training, is important because it increases your personal fitness and your personal capabilities. Do you struggle lifting cases of water? Try building some upper body muscles. Trouble with keeping up on a hike with hurting legs? Build some leg strength. Try some of these activities:
- Heavy gardening, like digging or shoveling
- Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall
- Lifting small weights — you can even use bottled water or cans of food as weights
If you do muscle-strengthening activities with weights, learn about safe weight training.
Take Action: Challenge Yourself
Get ready to get more active.
Any amount of physical activity is better than none. But getting more activity can increase the health benefits.
Here are 2 ways to add more activity to your routine:
- Be active for longer each time — if you’re walking 3 days a week for 30 minutes, try adding an additional 10 minutes each day
- Be active more often — if you’re riding your bike to work 2 days a week, try making it 4 days a week
Find time in your schedule.
Look at your schedule for the week. Find a few extra times to fit in some activity and put them in your calendar. Watch this 2-minute video for tips to get active on busy days.
Do more vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity has the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes — that way, you can get the same health benefits in half the time!
Take Action: Track Progress
Track your progress.
Keep track of your physical activity — you can write it down or use an app. Enter your goals and track your activities each week. Use a fitness tracker to count the number of steps you take. And as you get more active, you can set higher goals! Reaching your ultimate goal can take time, so setting smaller milestones to celebrate when you reach them is a great way to keep yourself motivated.
Use this tool to build a weekly activity plan, then print it out to track your activity throughout the week.
Like I have been saying all along, do not push yourself to reach your goals with unrealistic expectations. Remember, it’s not all or nothing. Even 5 minutes of activity is better than none! See if you can fit in 5 minutes of activity before work or after dinner — whatever works for you.