What is fitness?
You don't have to be an athlete to be fit. A brisk half-hour walk every day can help you reach a good level of fitness. And if this is hard for you, you can work toward a level of fitness that helps you feel better and have more energy.
What are the benefits of fitness?
Fitness helps you feel better and have more energy for work and leisure time. You'll feel more able to do things like playing with your kids, gardening, dancing, or biking. Children and teens who are fit may have more energy and better focus at school.
When you stay active and fit, you burn more calories, even when you're at rest. Being fit lets you do more physical activity. And it lets you exercise harder without as much work. It can also help you manage your weight.
Improving your fitness is good for your heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints. And it lowers your risk for falls, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. If you already have one or more of these problems, getting more fit may help you control other health problems and make you feel better.
Being more fit also can help you to sleep better, handle stress better, and keep your mind sharp.
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 is an exercise that helps you to be more flexible.
How can you be more physically active?
Moderate physical activity is safe for most people. But it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before becoming more active, especially if you haven't been very active or have health problems.
If you're ready to add more physical activity to your life, here are some tips to get you started:
- Make physical activity part of your regular day. Make a regular habit of using stairs, not elevators, and walking to do errands near your home.
- Start walking. Walking is a great fitness activity that most people can start doing. Make it a habit to take a daily walk with family members, friends, coworkers, or pets.
- Find an activity partner. This can make exercising more fun.
- Find an activity that you enjoy, and stay with it. Vary it with other activities so you don't get bored.
- Use the Interactive Tool: How Many Calories Did You Burn? to find out how many calories you burn during exercise and daily activities.
One Woman's Story:
"I knew I needed to do something. I felt like all my muscles were starting to atrophy. Now I feel like I'm so much more toned. I'm not buff, but I'm toned. I can definitely feel the difference."-Kris