Physical activity is an important part of your overall physical and mental health. Regular physical activity over time produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases.

Physical activity also keeps you in shape so you can enjoy leisure activities and safely perform work and home chores. Overall, it helps maintain an independent, productive, and social life.

According the recent Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, all Americans should be active even older adults and those who are disabled or managing a chronic illness. All adults gain substantial health benefits from a combination of activities that include aerobic fitness, flexibility, and muscle-strengthening exercises.

If you have been inactive, don’t be discouraged. Some activity is better than none. Start at a comfortable level and add a little more activity over time.

Would you like to:

· Decrease your risk of disease?

· Feel better physically and mentally?

· Look better?

· Help avoid injuries?

· Keep doing activities you enjoy throughout your life?

Regular physical activity will help you do these things. Physical activity is essential to prevent and reduce risks of many diseases and improve physical and mental health. It can even help you live longer — research from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine indicates that regular exercise can add up to five years to your life.

Physical activity also keeps you in shape so you can enjoy leisure activities and safely perform work and home chores. It offers great mental and social benefits as well. The Lancet released a series of studies that attribute positive outcomes to physical activity, including “a sense of purpose and value, a better quality of life, improved sleep, and reduced stress, as well as stronger relationships and social connectedness.”

7 important reasons to be physically active:

1. Be healthier & increase your chances of living longer

2. Feel better about yourself & achieve or maintain a healthy weight

3. Reduce the chance of becoming depressed & get around better

4. Sleep better at night

5. Look good & be in shape

6. Have stronger muscles and bones

7. Be with friends or meet new people & have fun

Physical activity reduces risk for eight conditions

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exercise can reduce your risk of:

· Heart disease

· Stroke

· High blood pressure

· Type 2 diabetes

· Obesity

· Depression

· Breast and colon cancer

· Osteoporosis


The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are designed so people can easily fit physical activity into their daily plan and incorporate activities they enjoy.

These guidelines recommend that each week you do one of the following:

· Two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (Examples are walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing, and general gardening)

· One hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity (Includes racewalking, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope, and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack)

Make sure that you do at least 10 minutes of aerobic activity at a time. In fact, people who engage in short bursts of physical activity for 10 minutes at a time have been shown to be just as healthy as people who do a regular 30-minute workout every day. Check out Fitness to learn ways to incorporate bursts of physical activity naturally into your daily life.

In addition, include muscle strengthening activities, such as weight training, push-ups, sit-ups, carrying heavy loads, or heavy gardening, at least two days a week. Exercise specialists, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, also recommend incorporating stretching and other exercises to increase flexibility and avoid injury, as well as exercises to improve balance and reduce risk of falls.

A word of caution

While exercise is undoubtedly beneficial, it is not true that the more exercise you do or the harder you work the body, the better the results. Too much or too arduous physical activity can lead to injury. It is essential to maintain a balance between working out the muscles without overdoing it. Know that your body gets stronger during rest and recovery.


Aerobic activity improves your cardiovascular health and helps protect against heart disease. It also improves your physical energy and produces endorphins that improve your mood.

What you do and how often and hard you exercise are determined by your goals, present fitness level and health, interest, and convenience. It is important to choose an activity you enjoy and that fits your lifestyle and tailor it to your fitness level. This will help you make exercise a habit. It’s also a good idea to choose more than one type of exercise to give your body a more complete workout and to avoid boredom.

There are two great ways to increase aerobic benefits:

· Add more vigorous activities

· Add more time for aerobic activities

Add more vigorous activity

Instead of doing only moderate-level activities, consider replacing some with vigorous aerobic activities that will make your heart beat even faster. Adding vigorous activities provides benefits in less activity time. In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity provides the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity.

Have you been walking for 30 minutes five days a week? On two days, try jogging instead of walking for 15 minutes each time. Keep on walking for 30 minutes on the other three days.

Would you like to have stronger muscles? If you have been doing strengthening activities two days a week, try adding an extra day.

Helpful tips to get started

One way to set your goals and monitor your level of physical activity is to know your target heart rate. Make your cardiovascular workouts hard enough to break a sweat and get your heart pumping faster. Learn how hard you should work out.

Walking is one excellent cardio-respiratory exercise that almost everyone can do. Walking 10,000 steps a day can improve health and fitness. (It takes a little more than 2,000 steps to walk one mile.) Many people discover when they begin wearing a pedometer that they only average between 900 and 3,000 steps a day. Learn how to start your own walking program.

There are many choices for cardiovascular exercise. Learn some of the pros and cons of each to help you make choices.


The following sites and print sources offer more information. Many of these provided evidences for the information in this section.


Aerobics and Fitness Association of America http://www.afaa.com

Activity Bursts Everywhere: http://abeforfitness.com

America on the Move http://aom2.americaonthemove.org

American Lung Association Running Club http://www.alarc.com/

Aquatic Exercise Association http://www.aeawave.com/

Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity

National Institute on Aging http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/exercise.htm

National Institute of Health http://health.nih.gov/topic/ExercisePhysicalFitness

Patience Tai Chi Association http://www.patiencetaichi.com

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