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Get Active

Older man and boy playing basketball

The Basics

Build physical activity into your life. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time you exercise. Then, try doing it more often.

What Kind of Activity Should I Do?

To get the health benefits of physical activity, be sure to include activities that make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. These are called aerobic (air-oh-bik) activities. It’s also important to do strengthening activities to make your muscles stronger.

How Much Physical Activity Do I Need Each Week?


Watch this video for help with what counts as aerobic activity. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

  • If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. Moderate activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, gardening, or yard work.
  • If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week. Vigorous activity includes things like jogging, jumping rope, swimming laps, or riding a bike on hills.


Strengthening activities include push-ups, sit-ups, and lifting weights.

  • Do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. Be sure to strengthen all major muscle groups including the legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.

Is Physical Activity for Everyone?

Yes! Visit these Web sites to learn more:

What if I Have a Health Problem?

If you have a health problem, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about what type of activity is best for you. Physical activity can be a great way to help manage your type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Visit these Web sites to learn more:

The Benefits

People of all ages benefit from physical activity. It doesn’t matter how out-of-shape you feel or how long you have been inactive.

Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. Exercise can help you control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and your weight. It can help raise your “good” cholesterol. It can also help prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

And that’s not all. Getting more active can:

  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Improve your sleep
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Help you feel better about yourself

What if I'm Overweight?

People of all types, shapes, and sizes benefit from physical activity. If you are overweight or obese, getting active can help you lower your risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer

For more information, check out Active at Any Size.

Take Action!

First, think about your current physical activity level. Select the option below that best describes you.

I’m just getting started

Start out slowly and add new activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, build up your activities – do them longer and more often. If you are not sure where to start, check out these examples of weekly physical activity.

Choose an activity that you enjoy.
If you can, team up with a friend or join a class. Find more tips to help you get active.

Be realistic.
Remember: it’s not all or nothing. 10 minutes of activity is better than none! Try walking for 10 minutes a day a few days a week.

Find a time that works for you. Try fitting in 10 minutes of activity before or after

Strengthen your muscles.

Try some of these activities a few days a week:

  • Sit-ups
  • Heavy gardening (digging or shoveling)
  • Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall

Have fun with your family.

If you have children, you are their role model for making healthy choices. Encourage your whole family to get outside and get active – go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.

I’m doing a little, but I’m ready to become more active

You may be feeling the benefits of getting active, such as sleeping better or getting toned. Here are 2 ways to add more activity to your life.

  • Be active longer each time.
    If you are walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week – try to walk for 50 minutes, 3 times a week.
  • Be active more often.
    If you are riding your bike to work 3 days a week, try riding to work 5 days a week.

Get to know your schedule.

Look at your schedule for the week. Find several 30-minute time periods you could use for exercise. Write them on your calendar.

Keep track of your activities with this activity log [PDF-123KB].

Try using a pedometer.

A pedometer clips onto your belt or waistband and keeps track of the number of steps you take. See if you can increase the number of steps you take each day.

Learn how to do strength training.

Watch these videos for tips on how to do strengthening activities at home or muscle strengthening at the gym.

I’m already physically active, and I want to keep it up.

If you are already active for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week, you can get even more health benefits by stepping up your routine. Work your way up to 5 hours or more of activity each week. This level of activity can lower your chances of getting breast and colon cancer.

Add vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity provides the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity. Try jogging instead of walking for 15 minutes each time.

Mix it up.
Mix vigorous activities with moderate ones. Don’t forget to do strengthening activities External Link 2 days a week. Consider joining a fitness group or exercise class.

Challenge yourself

Learn how getting more active can help reduce your risk of heart disease; overweight and obesity; osteoporosis; and colorectal cancer.

What do you want to do today?

  • Make an exercise plan for next week – and write it on your calendar.
  • Try these simple strength and balance activities. External Link
  • Walk the dog – or just walk around your neighborhood.
  • Do sit-ups and push-ups while you are watching TV tonight.
  • Send an e-card to a friend or family member to encourage them to get active.

    If you are Trying to Help Someone Get Active

    Invite Them to Walk With you
    Start small – try taking a walk after dinner twice a week.
    Get Informed
    Learn new stretches and warm-up exercises, find sample walking programs, and read about the benefits of exercise in your guide to physical activity and your heart [PDF - 1.29 MB].
    Be Understanding
    What is your loved one's reason for not getting active? Maybe they feel overwhelmed or embarrassed. Be patient. Let them do things on their own time. In the meantime, you can be a positive role model by staying active and eating healthy.
    Recognize Small Efforts
    Offer encouragement. Even if your loved one did not meet their exercise goals for the week, praise them for what they did do.
    Choose Healthy Gifts
    For birthdays or special rewards, choose gifts to encourage your loved one to exercise:
    • new sneakers or workout clothes
    • a basketball or balance ball
    • hand weights
    • pedometer
    • gift certificate to an exercise class


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    National Health Information Center

    P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133