The Basics: Overview
Regular physical activity is good for everyone's health! Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving.
Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. And at least 2 days a week, do activities that strengthen your muscles.
If you haven't been active before, start slowly. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits! Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time.
What kinds of activity should I do?
To get all the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
- Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.
- Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Examples include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups.
Use these resources to learn more about physical activity for:
The Basics: Health Benefits
What are the benefits of physical activity?
Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. It can also help:
- Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
- Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
- Prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
And that’s not all. Being more active can:
- Be fun
- Boost your mood
- Help you sleep better
- Make your bones, muscles, and joints healthier
- Lower your chances of becoming depressed
- Lower your risk of falls and reduce arthritis pain
- Help you feel better about yourself
Is physical activity for everyone?
Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out of shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you.
The Basics: Health Conditions
What if I’m overweight?
If you're overweight or obese, getting active can help you stop gaining weight and lower your risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes.
What if I have a health condition?
If you have a health condition like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, physical activity can help you manage it. Ask your doctor what types of activity are best for you.
What if I have a disability?
If you have a disability, you can find safe, fun ways to get active. Talk with your doctor if you need help choosing the best activities for you. You can also use these tips to stay active with a disability.
Take Action: Get Started
If you haven't been active before, start out slowly and add new activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, do them longer and more often. If you aren’t sure where to start, use this tool to build a weekly plan.
For tips to help you get motivated, watch this 2-minute video.
Choose activities that you enjoy.
Lots of things count as physical activity! Find things you really like to do. Play games like tennis or basketball, take a yoga or martial arts class, or just dance around your living room. Ask your friends to join you.
Everyday activities can add up to big health benefits. You can:
- Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
- Ride a bike to work – or just for fun
- Do push-ups during commercial breaks in TV shows
Have fun with your family.
You can be a role model for children and other family members. Encourage your whole family to get active outside – go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.
If you can't get active outside, watch this 2-minute video for ways your family can get active indoors.
If someone you know has trouble making time for physical activity, use these tips to help your loved one get more active.
Take Action: Build Muscles
Strengthen your muscles.
Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. Try some of these activities:
- Heavy gardening, like digging or shoveling
- Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall
- Lifting small weights – you can even use bottled water or cans of food as weights
If you do muscle-strengthening activities with weights, learn more about safe weight training.
Take Action: Track Progress
Track your progress.
Keep track of your physical activity – you can write it down or use an app on your smartphone. Enter your goals and track your activities each week. Use a fitness tracker to count the number of steps you take. And as you get more active, you can set higher goals!
Remember, it’s not all or nothing. Even 5 minutes of activity is better than none! See if you can fit in 5 minutes of activity before work or after dinner – whatever works for you.
Take Action: Challenge Yourself
Get ready to get more active.
Any amount of physical activity is better than none. But getting more activity can increase the health benefits.
Here are 2 ways to add more activity to your routine:
- Be active for longer each time. If you're walking 3 days a week for 30 minutes, try adding an additional 10 minutes each day.
- Be active more often. If you're riding your bike to work 2 days a week, try making it 4 days a week.
Find time in your schedule.
Look at your schedule for the week. Find a few extra times to fit in some activity and put them in your calendar. Watch this 2-minute video for tips to get active on busy days.
Do more vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity has the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes – this way, you can get the same health benefits in half the time!
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on physical activity was adapted from materials from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines Review Team