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Exercise and Weight Loss

How Much Physical Activity Should I Do?

Studies show that even the most inactive people can gain significant health benefits if they incorporate just 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day.

For the greatest overall health benefits, experts suggest 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (see below) most days of the week plus some form of anaerobic exercise (see below) such as muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least two to three times a week.

If you have been inactive for a while, you may want to start with less strenuous activities such as walking or swimming at a comfortable pace. Beginning at a slow pace will allow you to become physically fit without straining your body. Once you are in better shape, you can gradually do more strenuous activity.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is any activity involving large muscles, done for an extended period of time, that makes the heart and lungs work harder. Aerobic exercise can be done for weight loss, but it also provides cardiovascular benefits. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes, and cross-country skiing.

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercise usually refers to resistance training, such as lifting weights. Anaerobic exercise is done primarily to prevent muscle loss and to increase muscle mass. Weight training is a form of anaerobic exercise.

Moderate-Intensity Activities

Moderate-intensity activities include some of the things you may already be doing during a day or week, such as gardening and housework. These activities can be done in short spurts -- 10 minutes here, 8 minutes there. Alone, each action does not have a great effect on your health, but regularly accumulating 30 minutes of activity over the course of the day can result in substantial health benefits.

To become more active throughout your day, take advantage of any chance to get up and move around. Here are some examples:

  • Take a short walk around the block.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Play actively with the kids.
  • Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Take an activity break -- get up and stretch or walk around.
  • Park your car a little farther away from your destination and walk the extra distance.
  • Dance to the radio or other music.

The point is not to make physical activity an unwelcome chore, but to make the most of the opportunities you have to be active.

Before You Start Exercising

Before starting any exercise program, be sure to talk with your doctor. He or she can offer suggestions about which type of program would be best for you.




WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on July 11, 2014

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