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Fitness: Getting and Staying Active - What Does "Being Active" Really Mean?

Stronger muscles

Building stronger muscles is an important part of overall health. When your muscles are strong, you can carry heavy grocery bags more easily, pick up children without feeling as much strain, or do more downhill ski runs before you get too tired and have to stop.

Making your muscles stronger includes:

  • Resistance training. This helps build muscles through regular use, especially when your muscles have to work against something.
  • Strengthening your core. This helps build the muscles around your belly and back (trunk). This is called core stability. It can help you have better posture and balance, and help protect you from injury.
    actionset.gif Fitness: Increasing Core Stability

Experts advise people to do exercises to strengthen muscles at least 2 times a week. Be sure to work the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Examples of resistance-training exercises include lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using elastic bands.

Stretching for flexibility

Flexibility means being able to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion.

As you become more flexible, you will find it easier to reach things on high shelves, to look under a bed, or perhaps to tie your shoes. You will also have a better sense of balance and coordination.

To stay flexible, stretch slideshow.gif all your major groups of muscles. These include the muscles of your arms, your back, your hips, the front and back of your thighs, and your calves.

As you get started with flexibility and stretching, begin slowly, and increase your efforts bit by bit. You can measure your progress with flexibility by noticing how much farther you can do each stretch. Can you stretch farther each day than you could when you started? If so, your flexibility is getting better.

Do your stretching and flexibility exercises in addition to your aerobic and strength-building exercises.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 26, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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