Physical Activity

woman jogging

Moving more can help you live a longer, healthier life.

Participating in regular physical activity can reduce chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. Being physically active can help you keep up with a busy family and do the things you want to do during your working years and in retirement. In your later years, it can help you live independently for a longer period of time. Physical activity not only can add years to your life, it can also improve the quality of your life.

Being physically active doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t require any special equipment. It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk on a regular basis.

How Much is Enough

People often wonder exactly how much physical activity they need. Health experts recommend that adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least three days a week.

Physical activity is considered moderate if you can carry on a conversation with little difficulty while you are doing the activity. Moderate activity includes walking at a fast pace, raking leaves, mowing your yard, bicycling at a leisurely pace, recreational swimming and playing golf if you pull or carry your clubs.

Physical activity is considered vigorous if it is difficult to carry on a conversation because you become short of breath while doing the activity. Vigorous activity includes running, swimming laps, playing singles tennis and ballroom or square dancing. It is normal for vigorous activity to increase your heart rate and cause you to sweat.

If finding time for physical activity is difficult, you don’t have to do it all at once. It may be easier for you to be active for 10 minutes, three times a day.

Three Main Types of Physical Activity

There are three main types of physical activity. All are important to good health.

  1. Aerobic activities strengthen your heart and lungs and burn calories, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Brisk walking, bicycling, swimming and playing tennis are examples of aerobic activities.
  2. Resistance training, strength training and weight-bearing activities work the large muscles in your legs, arms, chest and stomach. Keeping these muscles in shape makes it easier for you to lift, move and carry things. Walking, using free weights or exercise machines, and even carrying around your grandkids are examples of resistance and strength training and weight bearing activities.
  3. Balance and stretching activities improve your balance, posture, stability and gait. They also reduce your risk of falls, especially as you get older. These types of activities can help you maintain flexibility, increase, the range of motion you have in your joints and improve your posture. Yoga, tai chi, martial arts, dancing and gently stretching are examples of balance and stretching exercises.

When you move more, you...

  • Reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease as well as the risk of dying from heart disease.
  • Lower your risk of having a stroke.
  • Decrease your total blood cholesterol and triglycerides (your “bad cholesterol”) and increase your high density lipoproteins (“your good cholesterol”).
  • Lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Lower your risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Increase your ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
  • Promote psychological well-being.
  • Help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  • Feel stronger, move easier and have more energy.