Physical Activity Guidelines and You

— Written By and last updated by Cindy Nance

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provide science-based guidance to encourage Americans to improve health through appropriate physical activity. Exercise is often described by intensity, or how hard a person works to do the activity. Moderate intensity is equivalent to brisk walking, general gardening, ballroom dancing and water aerobics. Vigorous intensity exercise includes jogging, running, or hiking uphill.

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of several chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 2-diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression. It also decreases blood pressure and cholesterol. Furthermore, regular physical activity promotes weight loss, maintenance of a healthful weight, improved bone health, and depression relief.

Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate physical activity per week. That’s about 22 minutes of exercise each day. Exercising more often brings additional benefits.

To do physical activity safely and reduce the risk of injury and other adverse events:

  • Choose to do types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals.
  • Increase physical activity gradually over time. Inactive people should start low and go slow by gradually increasing how often and how long activities are done.
  • People with chronic conditions and symptoms should consult their healthcare provider about the types and amounts of activity appropriate for them.

One key message that is often forgotten is that some exercise is always better than no exercise.

  • Not enough time for exercise? Even 10-minute bursts of physical activity provide health benefits.
  • Use commercial breaks while watching TV to walk around or do a few push-ups or sit-ups. Better yet, pedal an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill while watching your favorite TV show.
  • Encourage your coworkers to take a 10-minute walk with you during your lunch break.
  • Play outdoors and enjoy physical activities such as hiking, swimming, and bicycling.
  • When traveling, take advantage of hotel exercise rooms to lift weights or walk on the treadmill. Ask about nearby outdoor walking trails.
  • Instead of thinking about exercise as something boring and time-consuming, think of it as time to have fun, play, and laugh. Put on your favorite music and dance, get out a Frisbee or hula-hoop, or meet a friend for a walk instead of coffee.

Information brought to you by Food and Health: Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC

For more information on Physical Activity contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.