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Fitness: Getting and Staying Active - Topic Overview

How much physical activity do you need for health-related fitness?

Experts say your goal should be one, or a combination, of these:

  • Do some sort of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking, for at least 2½ hours each week. It is up to you how many days you want to exercise, but it is best to be active at least 3 days a week. Be active for at least 10 minutes at a time. For example, you could:
    • Take a 10-minute walk 3 times a day. Do this 5 days a week.
    • Take a half-hour walk 3 days a week. On the other 4 days take a 15-minute walk.
    • Take a 45-minute walk every other day.
  • Or do more vigorous activities, like running, for at least 1¼ hours a week. This activity makes you breathe harder and have a much faster heartbeat than when you are resting. You can spread out these 75 minutes any way you want to. It is better to be active at least 3 days a week for at least 10 minutes at a time. For example, you could:
    • Run for 25 minutes 3 times a week.
    • Run for 15 minutes 5 times a week.

Here's an easy way to tell if your exercise is moderate: You're at a moderate level of activity if you can talk but not sing during the activity. If you can't talk while you're doing the activity, you're working too hard.

Children as young as preschool age need activity. Encourage your child (age 6 to 17) to do moderate to vigorous activity at least 1 hour every day.

What types of physical activity improve fitness?

The activities you choose depend on which kind of fitness you want to improve. There are three different kinds of fitness:

  • Aerobic fitness makes you breathe faster and makes your heart work harder for a while. Aerobic activities include walking, running, cycling, and swimming. Aerobic fitness is also called cardio or cardiovascular training.
  • Muscle fitness (strength) means building stronger muscles and increasing how long you can use them. Activities like weight lifting and push-ups can improve your muscular fitness.
  • Flexibility is the ability to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. Stretching slideshow.gif is an exercise that helps you to be more flexible.
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