You don’t have to train for a marathon or a triathlon to get exercise; many daily activities count. Whether it’s walking the dog, gardening, going for a family bike ride or running on a treadmill at the gym, staying active is the goal. It doesn’t have to include putting on gym clothes or getting sweaty! Even low-impact exercise can have a big impact on your overall health1,2.
Physical activity not only feels good, it helps prevent chronic diseases, improves your mood, increases your energy level and improves your quality of sleep, not to mention helps you manage and maintain your weight3.
Walking is a great low-intensity way to achieve the health benefits of physical activity because it is safe and pleasant, making it an easier habit to develop. Because walking is an aerobic, weight-bearing activity, it’s good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis by strengthening your bones
How much physical activity is enough?
Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week for basic health benefits; if weight loss is your goal, you may need more. Your 150 minutes can be spread out through the week as you please. You can spend 21 minutes exercising every day, or work out for almost an hour three times per week. Use this guide from the Center for Disease Control on how much physical activity adults need1,2.
Try to incorporate strength-strengthening exercises – like lifting weights, push-ups or yoga – at least two times per week to build and maintain muscles.
Children should get 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every day to achieve maximum health benefits. Like adults, children can get the benefits by breaking up their 60 minutes, say 30 minutes during recess and 30 minutes after school.
How to get more physical activity
Incorporate some of these tips into your daily routine and watch your fitness improve!
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Ride an exercise bike while you watch the evening news.
- Pace while talking on the phone.
- Walk around the block on your lunch hour or during a break.
- Make a ritual out of weekend family walks or bike rides.
- Take dance lessons or an aerobics class.
- Buy an exercise or yoga DVD (and use it!).
- Join a fitness club and work with a fitness trainer.
Sticking with physical activity
Any amount of physical activity has health benefits, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t getting 150 minutes of weekly activity immediately. Use our Physical Activity Journal to set a goal and track your progress.
Tips for staying physically active:
- Choose activities you like to do. You’ll be more likely to stick with something you enjoy. Think about whether you like to be inside or outside, alone or with people and what time of day is best for you.
- Find a partner — you’re more likely to keep up with your new routine.
- Congratulate yourself for all the good things you’ve done for your body and get started again as soon as your schedule allows.
- Vary your routine. You may be less likely to get bored if you try different activities. Walk one day; bicycle the next.
- Commit to a realistic schedule. You might want to vary the times and locations of your activities, to keep things interesting – unless you’re more comfortable with a set, predictable schedule, which is fine too!
- Sneak in a few minutes of physical activity whenever you can. Take a 10 minute walk after you eat lunch and before you start back to work.
Don’t commit to anything you don’t feel confident about. Start an exercise plan that you’re interested in so you can stick to it, but don’t feel guilty or disappointed if you don’t reach some lofty goal that wasn’t right for you. You can always add more activities or time to your exercise routine when you’re ready.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov Website. Washington, DC. Physical Activity. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity/why.html Accessed March 29, 2015.
2. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Health.gov Website. Washington, DC. Physical Activity Guidelines. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter2.aspx Accessed March 29, 2015.
3. Deslandes AC. Exercise and mental health: What did we learn in the last 20 years? Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:66.