Exercise Your Way to Better Health


Nearly 80 percent of adults are not getting enough exercise*. Many people still undervalue the benefits of physical activity and underestimate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on their overall health. Following these guidelines below developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services* will help get you started on your journey to improved fitness and better health. Before making a significant change in your routine, always be sure to check with your doctor.

Who Benefits from Physical Activity?

Everyone can benefit from regular physical activity! Recommended activities may vary depending on your age and physical ability level.

  • Preschool-Aged Children: Kids ages 3-5 should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
  • Children and Adolescents: Those ages 6-17 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.
  • Adults: While any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will benefit your health, adults should do at least 150-300 minutes of exercise per week for substantial health benefits.
  • Older Adults: Those age 65 and older should do weekly physical activity that includes balance training and muscle-strengthening exercises for 150 minutes per week, or as much as their physical ability allows.  
  • Women During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: Under the care of a healthcare provider, women who are pregnant and postpartum should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.

Risks of Sedentary Behavior

Sedentary behavior refers to any waking behavior that requires a low level of energy, such as sitting, watching TV, reclining, or lying down. More time spent engaging in sedentary behavior increases risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Colon, endometrium, and lung cancer

Health Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Reduces risk of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high blood cholesterol
  • Supports healthy weight management
  • Reduces risk of certain cancers
  • Supports brain health benefits, including possible improved cognitive function, reduced anxiety and depression risk, and improved sleep and quality of life
  • Improves bone health and weight management for children ages 3-5 years
  • Improves cognitive function for youth ages 6-13 years
  • For pregnant women, reduces risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression
  • For older adults, reduces risk of fall-related injuries and helps maintain independence
  • For people with chronic conditions, reduced risk of all-cause and disease-specific mortality, improved physical function, and improved quality of life

    Types of Physical Activity

    Physical Activity Intensity
    • Light-intensity activity is non-sedentary waking behavior, like walking at a slow or leisurely pace, cooking activities, or light household chores.
    • Moderate-intensity activity includes activities like walking briskly (2.5 to 4 mph), playing doubles tennis, and raking the yard.
    • Vigorous-intensity activity includes activities like jogging, running, carrying heavy groceries or other loads upstairs, or participating in a strenuous fitness class.
    Levels of Physical Activity
      • Inactive is not getting any moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity beyond basic movement from daily life activities.
      • Insufficiently active is doing some moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity, but less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. This level is less than the target range for meeting the key guidelines for adults.
      • Active is doing 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This level meets the key guideline target range for adults.
      • Highly active is doing more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This level exceeds the key guideline target range for adults.
      Aerobic Activity

      Aerobic activity, also called endurance or cardio, causes your heart to beat faster and you will breathe harder than normal. Examples of aerobic activity include:

      • Brisk walking
      • Running
      • Bicycling
      • Jumping rope
      • Swimming
      Muscle Strengthening Activity

      Muscle-strengthening activity strengthens targeted muscle groups by applying weight or force. It is important to work all the major muscle groups of the body – the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:

      • Lifting relatively heavy objects such as weights
      • Working with resistance bands
      • Heavy gardening, such as digging or shoveling
      • Climbing stairs
      • Push-ups, sit-ups, and squats
      Bone Strengthening Activity

      Bone-strengthening activity promotes bone growth and strength. This type of exercise can also be aerobic and muscle strengthening. Examples of bone-strengthening activities include:

      • Jumping jacks
      • Running
      • Brisk walking
      • Weight-lifting exercises
      • Jumping rope
      Balancing Activities

      Balance activities can reduce your chances of falling while standing or moving. This type of exercise is especially important for older adults to reduce their risk of injury from falls. Examples of balance activities include:

      • Walking backward
      • Standing on one leg
      • Using a wobble board
      • Yoga
      • Tai Chi

      Weight Management

      • Physical activity and caloric intake must be considered when trying to control body weight.
      • Scientific evidence shows that physical activity helps people maintain a stable weight over time and can reduce the risk of excessive weight gain and obesity.
      • Some people may need more physical activity than others to maintain or lose weight. Many people need more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week to maintain weight.
      • People who want to lose a substantial amount of weight (more than 5 percent of body weight) may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet their goals.
      • Combining muscle-strengthening activities, aerobic activities, and caloric restriction tends to be the most beneficial approach for weight loss and maintenance.

      It’s never too late to begin your journey to better health! Start by visiting healthywayevents.com and attending one of our free fitness classes in your neighborhood. There’s something for everyone – Zumba, yoga, strength and balance, dance classes and more!

      For more healthy tips, visit our Health Education Library.

      The content provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health provider prior to changing your diet, starting an exercise regimen, or with any questions that you may have about your health or medical condition.

      * U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.