Physical activity

Definition

Physical activity -- which includes an active lifestyle and routine exercise -- plus eating well, is the best way to stay healthy.

Alternative Names

Fitness recommendations; Exercise

Information

An effective exercise program needs to be fun and keep you motivated. It helps to have a goal.

Your goal might be to:

Your exercise program can also be a good way for you to socialize. Taking exercise classes or exercising with a friend are both good ways to be social.

You may have a hard time starting an exercise routine, but once you do start, you may begin to notice other benefits, such as:

GETTING STARTED

You do not need to join a gym to exercise. If you have not exercised or been active in a long time, start slowly to prevent injuries. Taking a brisk 10-minute walk twice a week is a good start.

Try joining a dance, yoga, or karate class if it appeals to you. You could also join a baseball or bowling team, or even a mall-walking group. The social aspects of these groups can be rewarding and motivating.

The most important thing is to do exercises that you can maintain and enjoy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program if:

Build physical activity into your regular routine

Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference over time.

REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME

Sedentary behaviors are things you do while you are sitting still. Decreasing your sedentary behaviors can help you lose weight. For most people, the best way to decrease sedentary behaviors is to reduce the time they spend watching TV and using a computer and other electronic devices. All of these activities are called "screen time."

Some ways to decrease screen time are:

If you like playing video games, try games that require you to move your whole body, not just your thumbs.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED?

Aim to exercise about 2.5 hours a week. It's important to do both moderate-intensity aerobic activity that increases your heart rate and muscle strengthening. Muscle strengthening, also called strength training, resistance training, or endurance exercise, should be done 2 times a week. Depending on your schedule, you could exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week, or 45 to 60 minutes 3 days a week.

You do not have to do your total daily exercise all at once. If your goal is to exercise for 30 minutes, you can break that up into shorter time periods that add up to 30 minutes.

As you become more fit, you can challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your exercise by going from light to moderate activity. You can also increase the amount of time you exercise.

References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Recommendation statement. 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html. Page last updated: March 3, 2014. Accessed April 10, 2015.



Review Date: 4/11/2015
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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