Regular activity makes you healthier
Physical activity is key to improving your health and preventing serious illness. Experts say to do either of these things to get and stay healthy:
- Moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or shooting baskets. But any activities-including daily chores-that raise your heart rate can be included. You notice your heart beating faster with this kind of activity.
- Vigorous activity for at least 1¼ hours a week. Vigorous activity means things like jogging, cycling fast, or cross-country skiing. You breathe rapidly and your heart beats much faster with this kind of activity.
Physical activity for weight loss means burning more calories. Experts say more than 5 hours a week (aim for 60 to 90 minutes a day) of moderate activity can help.
Being active in several blocks of 10-minutes or more throughout the day can count toward these recommendations. You can choose to do one or both types of activity.
If you're not active right now, you don't have to start out at this level. Instead, start small and build up over time. Moderate activity is safe for most people. But it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Regular moderate-intensity physical activity lowers your risk of:
- Heart disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Breast cancer, colon cancer, and cancers of the female reproductive system.
Work activity into your daily life
Brushing your teeth and getting dressed are regular parts of your day, right? You hardly think about it.
It can be that way with physical activity too. With practice and repetition, you can make activity-whether it's formal exercise or an activity like gardening or walking the dog-so routine that it becomes something you just do because it's part of your day and you enjoy it.
Like any lifestyle change, changing your activity level may be easier if you have a plan. Set small goals. Be creative. For more information, see Getting to a Healthy Weight: Making Lifestyle Changes.
Don't wait until you are "thin" to do the activities you want to do. Just make sure to start slowly. If you aren't active at all, talk to your doctor first.
No matter what you do, the key is making physical activity a regular, fun part of your life. And as soon as you start seeing the results, you'll be even more motivated to keep doing it.
What's the right amount?
It's best to get some moderate physical activity for at least 2½ hours a week. Brisk walking is one kind of moderate activity.
But if you're not active at all, work up to it. For example, you may want to start by walking around the block every morning, or walking for just 10 minutes. Over time, you can make your walks longer or walk more often throughout your day and week.
Here's how you can tell if an activity or exercise is making you work hard enough:
- If you can't talk while you do it, you're working too hard.
- You're at the right level if you can talk but not sing during the activity.
You can also use the rating of perceived exertion scale.
Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get moving for most people. Keep track of the number of steps you take each day with a phone app or pedometer. Using it may motivate you to walk more in order to increase your total steps.
Identify your barriers
There are lots of reasons why you may have trouble getting more active. These are called barriers.
These barriers can range from "I don't have time" to "I'm too embarrassed."
Figuring out your barriers and how you will respond to them is a big step in planning the lifestyle changes that will lead you to a healthy weight and help you stay there.
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.