How much exercise do you need?

The good news about regular physical activity is that everyone can benefit from it. Additionally, physical activity does not need to be hard or challenging. Participating in moderate-intensity physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages and wide range of abilities.1

Current physical activity recommendations for adults include both cardio or aerobic activities and resistance, strength-building, and weight-bearing activities.

Recommendations for Adults
  • Cardio or aerobic activities. Achieve the aerobic activity recommendation through one of the following options:
    • A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (such as brisk walking) most days of the week
    • A minimum of 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running) 3 days a week
  • Resistance, strength-building, and weight-bearing activities. Two days a week, incorporate strength training into your routine. Strength training activities, such as weight lifting, maintain and increase muscle strength and endurance. A goal to reach towards is completing 6-8 strength training exercises, with 812 repetitions per exercise.

What types of aerobic activities are considered moderate-intensity?

During moderate-intensity activities you should notice an increase in your heart rate, but you should still be able to talk comfortably. If you are breathing hard and fast and your heart rate is increased substantially, you are probably doing vigorous-intensity activity. Many activities (such as bicycling or swimming) can be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity depending on your level of effort. See the measuring intensity section for more information. More examples of moderate-intensity activity are provided below.

Indoors Outdoors Indoors or Outdoors
Dancing, general (Greek, Hula, Flamenco, Middle Eastern and Swing)
Riding a stationary bike
Actively playing with children
Taking Jazzercise
Scrubbing the floor
Mowing lawn, general
Frisbee playing, general
Playing golf, walking the course
Shoveling light snow
Downhill skiing with light effort

Raking leaves
Hand washing/waxing a car

Playing basketball, shooting hoops
Walking, brisk pace (mall/around a track/treadmill)
Doing water aerobics
Jogging/walking combination (In a 30-minute period, you should be jogging for less than 10 minutes.)

For more examples of activities that are considered "moderate-intensity" and "vigorous-intensity," check out General Physical Activities Defined By Level of Intensity (PDF)

What are ways to get the amount of physical activity that I need?

You can reach your goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week in more than one way: you can do one type of activity for at least 30 minutes, or you can break down your minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity into smaller, 10- to 15-minute segments.3

Think of it as the 3-2-1 plan!

3 Complete three activities for 10 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate
2 Complete two activities for 15 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate
1 Complete one activity for 30 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate

Follow the 3-2-1 and stick with it!

What types of aerobic activities are considered vigorous-intensity?

Most people can get greater health benefits by increasing the intensity or the amount of time that they are physically active. Incorporating up to 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity may also help you manage your weight or help you prevent weight gain, whatever your goal may be.

Examples of vigorous-intensity activities include:
  • Racewalking, jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Mowing lawn, hand mower
  • Tennis, singles
  • Bicycling more than 10 mph, or on steep uphill terrain
  • Moving or pushing furniture
  • Circuit training a combination of strength, endurance and aerobic exercises

Experts advise that people with chronic diseases, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure, should talk to their doctor about what types and amounts of physical activity are appropriate. For more, see When is a medical evaluation necessary?

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Originally published by the Department of Health and Human Services










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