Physical activity is good for people of all ages. Staying active can help:
- Lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
- Improve your strength and balance so you can prevent injuries and stay independent
- Improve your mood
- Feel better about yourself
- Improve your ability to think, learn, and make decisions
Before you start...
If you have a health problem like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, talk to your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.
Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activities.
- If you weren't physically active before, start slowly. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has health benefits. You can build up to more over time.
- Choose aerobic activities – activities that make your heart beat faster – like walking fast, dancing, swimming, or raking leaves.
- Tell your doctor if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or unplanned weight loss.
Do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week.
- Try using exercise bands or lifting hand weights. You can also use bottles of water or cans of food as weights.
- Breathe out as you lift the weight, and breathe in as you lower it. Don't hold your breath – holding your breath can cause unsafe changes in your blood pressure.
Do balance activities.
- Practice standing on one foot (hold onto a chair if you need to at first).
- Stand up from a sitting position.
- Learn tai chi, a mind-body exercise that improves balance.
- Sign up for a yoga class or try out a yoga video at home.
Content last updated July 24, 2020
This information on physical activity was adapted from materials from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, NIHSeniorHealth.gov, and the National Institute on Aging.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines Review Team