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Be Physically Active - Get Your Body Moving

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Adult couple walks down a path in the woods.

Some activity is better than none. Aim for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic activity each week.

By National Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Less than half of U.S. adults get the amount of physical activity recommended in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.  Studies show that regular physical activity decreases the risk for developing depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and some kinds of cancer.

All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. If you don’t have a chronic condition (like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis) and you don’t have symptoms (e.g., chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or joint pain) you don’t need to talk to a health care provider before you become more active.

If you have a concern regarding a health condition, talk with your health care team about the types and amounts of activity that are best for you.

For important health benefits, you should do at least 2 1/2 hours each week of moderate-intensity, or 1 1/4 hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.

Physical activity is anything that gets the body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once this begins to seem easy, add a little more activity each time. Then try doing it more often.

Your body is working at a moderate intensity when you can talk but not sing. Moderate-intensity physical activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, and raking leaves.

Your body is working at a vigorous intensity when you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Vigorous-intensity physical activity includes things like jogging, jumping rope, swimming laps, or riding a bike uphill.

People of all ages and body types benefit from physical activity. Even if you are out of shape or have not been active in a long time, you can begin activity safely.

Aerobic activity should be in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and it is best to spread these out during the week.
Aerobic activity (also called endurance activity) is when you move your body as large muscles in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time and your heart beats faster than usual.

Muscle strengthening activity causes your body's muscles to work or hold against an applied force or weight. This includes resistance training and lifting weights. Resistance can be generated using elastic bands, handheld weights or body weight. The effects of muscle-strengthening activity are limited to the muscles doing the work.

Strengthening activities should be performed on at least two non-consecutive days each week and should target all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.

Stretching can produce the following benefits: increased flexibility, improved joint range of motion, improved circulation, and stress relief. How often should a person stretch? Generally, it is best to stretch when engaging in physical activity. For those who are not active on a regular basis, stretching at least three times per week to maintain flexibility is a good starting point.

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