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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
bulletCardio or aerobic activities. Achieve the aerobic activity recommendation through one of the following options:
bulletA minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (such as brisk walking) most days of the week
or
bulletA minimum of 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running) 3 days a week
bulletResistance, 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 IntensityPDF file (PDF-64k.)


couple walkingWhat 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
 OR
2 Complete two activities for 15 consecutive minutes at a moderately intense rate
 OR
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:
bulletRacewalking, jogging or running
bulletSwimming laps
bulletMowing lawn, hand mower
bulletTennis, singles
bulletBicycling more than 10 mph, or on steep uphill terrain
bulletMoving or pushing furniture
bulletCircuit 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?

bullet Are there special recommendations for young people?
bullet Are there special recommendations for older adults?

 

References

11996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, page 37

PDF Document Icon Please note: Some of these publications are available for download only as *.pdf files. These files require Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to be viewed. Please review the information on downloading and using Acrobat Reader software.

* Links to non-Federal organizations found at this site are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the Federal Government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.

Page last reviewed: March 24, 2008
Page last updated: March 26, 2008
Content Source: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion