Exercise Basics

Regular physical activity is good for your health.

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time you exercise. Then try exercising more often.

What kinds of activity should I do?

To get the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Aerobic

    (“air-OH-bik”) activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.

  • Muscle-strengthening

    activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights and using exercise bands.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. Exercise can also help:
  • Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
  • Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
  • Prevent heart disease, colorectal and breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes
And that’s not all. Being more active can:
  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Improve your sleep
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Reduce falls and pain from arthritis
  • Help you feel better about yourself

How much aerobic activity do I need each week?

  • If you choose moderate activities, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. Moderate activities include things like walking fast, dancing, and raking leaves.
  • If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week. Vigorous activities include things like jogging, jumping rope, swimming laps, or riding a bike on hills.

Do moderate or vigorous aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. You can also combine moderate and vigorous activities.

How do I know if my activity level is moderate or vigorous?

Your body is working at a moderate level when you can talk but not sing. Your body is working at a vigorous level when you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

Find out how to determine your activity level by measuring your heart rate.

How much muscle-strengthening activity do I need each week?

Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. Muscle-strengthening activities include push-ups, sit-ups, and lifting weights. Be sure to strengthen all major muscle groups including the legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. Do these activities to the point where it’s hard for you to do more without help. If you can, do several sets of each exercise.

Is physical activity for everyone?

Yes! People of all ages and body types benefit from physical activity. Even if you feel out-of-shape or haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you. Visit these Web sites to learn more about physical activity for:

If you have a health condition, be as active as you can be. Your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. Use these tips to stay active with a disability.

What if I’m overweight?

If you are overweight or obese, getting active can help you lower your risk of:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer

Find out more about how you can be active at any size.

What if I have a health condition?

If you have a health condition, talk to a doctor about what types of activity are best for you. Physical activity can help you manage your type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Visit these Web sites to learn more: