What types of physical activity do I need?
Experts recommend two types of physical activities: aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.Aerobic activity.
Aerobic activities—also called endurance or cardio activities—use your large muscle groups (chest, legs, and back) to speed up your heart rate and breathing.
Aerobics can be moderate or vigorous. How can you tell what level your activity is? Take the “talk test” to find out. If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily—but you can’t sing—then you’re doing moderate-intensity activity. If you can only say a few words before pausing for a breath, then you’re at the vigorous level. Start with moderate-intensity activities and then work up to vigorous-intensity activities to avoid injuries.
Choose aerobic activities that are fun for you. You’re more likely to be active if you like what you’re doing. Try getting a friend, family member, or coworker to join you. That may help you enjoy activity and stick with it.
Try one of these activities or any others you enjoy
- brisk walking or jogging
- bicycling (wear a helmet)
- playing basketball or soccer
Regular aerobic activity can help you
- manage your weight. Aerobic activity uses calories, which may help keep your weight down.
- prevent heart disease and stroke Regular aerobic activity may strengthen your heart muscle. It may even lower your blood pressure. It may also help lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol, which may lower your risk of getting heart disease.
- prevent other diseases. Even moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week may lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, some cancers, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
- maintain strong bones. Weight-bearing aerobic activities that involve lifting or pushing your own body weight, such as walking, jogging, or dancing, help to maintain strong bones.
Strength training (or resistance training) works your muscles by making you push or pull against something—a wall or floor, hand-held weights, an exercise bar, exercise bands, or even soup cans.
Try these options
- lift weights—you can even use two full cans of food or gallon-size water containers as weights
- do push-ups, pull-ups, or planks
- work with resistance bands (large rubber bands)
- do heavy gardening (digging, lifting, carrying)
Doing regular activities to strengthen your muscles may help you
- increase bone strength and prevent bone loss as you age
- maintain muscle mass and prevent muscle loss as you age or as you lose weight
- work the major muscle groups of your body, such as the chest, back, abdominals, legs, and arms
How much physical activity do I need?
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week (a total of 2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. You can spread your activity throughout the week—whatever works best for you. Studies show that if you spread activity across at least 3 days a week, you can improve your health, reduce your risk of injury, and keep yourself from becoming too tired.
If you increase your aerobic activity to 300 minutes a week—instead of the recommended 150 minutes—you may even lower your risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, if you do more than 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, you may even reduce your risk for several cancers.
You should also aim for at least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. To avoid injury, allow at least 1 day of rest for your muscles to recover and rebuild before working the same muscle groups again.