Experts recommend that you should move more and sit less throughout the day. You can gain some health benefits if you sit less and do any amount of physical activity.
Keep reminding yourself: Some physical activity is better than none.
Being physically active may help you start feeling better right away. It can help
- boost your mood
- sharpen your focus
- reduce your stress
- improve your sleep
Once you are more active, keep it up with regular activities. That will improve your health even more. Studies suggest that, over time, physical activity can help you live a longer, healthier life. It may
- help prevent heart disease and stroke
- control your blood pressure
- lower your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and some cancers
What types of physical activity do I need?
Experts recommend two types of physical activities: aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Aerobic activity. Aerobic activities—also called endurance or cardio activities—use your large muscle groups (chest, legs, and back) to speed up your heart rate and breathing.
Aerobics can be moderate or vigorous. How can you tell what level your activity is? Take the “talk test” to find out. If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily—but you can’t sing—then you’re doing moderate-intensity activity. If you can only say a few words before pausing for a breath, then you’re at the vigorous level. Start with moderate-intensity activities and then work up to vigorous-intensity activities to avoid injuries.
Choose aerobic activities that are fun for you. You’re more likely to be active if you like what you’re doing. Try getting a friend, family member, or coworker to join you. That may help you enjoy activity and stick with it.
Try one of these activities or any others you enjoy
- brisk walking or jogging
- bicycling (wear a helmet)
- playing basketball or soccer
Regular aerobic activity can help you
- manage your weight. Aerobic activity uses calories, which may help keep your weight down.
- prevent heart disease and stroke NIH external link. Regular aerobic activity may strengthen your heart muscle. It may even lower your blood pressure. It may also help lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol, which may lower your risk of getting heart disease.
- prevent other diseases. Even moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week may lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, some cancers, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease NIH external link and other dementias NIH external link.
- maintain strong bones. Weight-bearing aerobic activities that involve lifting or pushing your own body weight, such as walking, jogging, or dancing, help to maintain strong bones.
Muscle-strengthening activity. Strength training (or resistance training) works your muscles by making you push or pull against something—a wall or floor, hand-held weights, an exercise bar, exercise bands, or even soup cans.
Try these options
- lift weights—you can even use two full cans of food or gallon-size water containers as weights
- do push-ups, pull-ups, or planks
- work with resistance bands (large rubber bands)
- do heavy gardening (digging, lifting, carrying)
Doing regular activities to strengthen your muscles may help you
- increase bone strength and prevent bone loss NIH external link as you age
- maintain muscle mass and prevent muscle loss as you age or as you lose weight
- work the major muscle groups of your body, such as the chest, back, abdominals, legs, and arms
How much physical activity do I need?
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week (a total of 2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. You can spread your activity throughout the week—whatever works best for you. Studies show that if you spread activity across at least 3 days a week, you can improve your health, reduce your risk of injury, and keep yourself from becoming too tired.
If you increase your aerobic activity to 300 minutes a week—instead of the recommended 150 minutes—you may even lower your risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, if you do more than 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, you may even reduce your risk for several cancers.
You should also aim for at least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. To avoid injury, allow at least 1 day of rest for your muscles to recover and rebuild before working the same muscle groups again.
How do I get started?
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from regular physical activity. Even modest amounts of physical activity can improve your health.
If you have been inactive for a while , you may want to start with easier activities, such as walking at a gentle pace. For example, you could start by walking 5 minutes at a time, several times a day, 5 to 6 days a week. You could gradually increase your time to 10 minutes per session, 3 times a day, and slowly increase your walking speed. Building up slowly lets you work up to more intense activity without getting hurt.
Be sure to increase your muscle-strengthening activities gradually. Start out 1 day a week at a light or moderate intensity. Over time, increase to 2 days a week, and then possibly to more than 2 days. Increase the intensity until it becomes moderate or greater.
Make a plan to stay on track, set your own weekly goals, choose the activities you want to do, and get personalized tips to help you stay motivated.
You can keep an activity log to track your progress, such as the sample log below or an app on your mobile device. After you do an activity, write down how you were feeling while you were active. As you become more fit over time, try to slowly increase your pace, the length of time you are active, and how many days of the week you are active.
Sample Activity Log
|Date||Activity||Total Time||How I Felt|
|Mon., Mar. 1||Walking||2 x 15 minutes||I kept a good pace.|
|Free weights at home||20 minutes|
|Tues., Mar. 2||Walking||30 minutes|
|Stretching||15 minutes||Stretching felt great.|
|Wed., Mar. 3||Extra walking at work—used the stairs 3 times||About 20 minutes total||I was busy, so I just tried to move more all day.|
|Yoga video at home||20-minute video||Yoga helped me relax.|
|Thurs., Mar. 4||Walking||15 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes after work||Walking with my coworker was fun and relaxing.|
|Fri., Mar. 5||Walking||30 minutes at lunch||My coworker and I picked up the pace today!|
|Free weights at home||20 minutes|
|Sat., Mar. 6||Water aerobics class||45-minute class||This class is fun but exhausting.|
|Sun., Mar. 7||Gardening||60 minutes||A surprisingly good workout.|
Try these activities to add more movement to your daily life.
- Choose parking spots that are farther away for extra steps. (Make sure the places where you park and walk are safe and well lit.)
- Walk around the inside of a shopping mall or other large building, especially in bad weather.
- Rake the leaves, wash the car, or do brisk housecleaning.
- Visit museums or the zoo. Many of these activities are free. You and your family can walk for hours and not realize how far you have gone.
- Take a break from sitting at the computer, TV, or other device.
- Start a walking or other active group where you work, live, or worship. Having a buddy can help keep you focused and add fun to your activity.
- If your time is limited, do 10 minutes of exercise at a time. Spread these bursts of activity throughout the day. Every little bit counts!