You can be physically active by choosing aerobic activities that make your heart beat faster, or strengthening activities that make your muscles stronger. It is best to do both types of activities each week.
To enjoy the health benefits of being active, choose moderate-intensity physical activities that increase your heart rate a little. If these activities become easy and you want to improve your fitness level further, you can choose vigorous-intensity activities that increase your heart rate a lot. Examples of these types of activities include:
Ballroom or line dancing
Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
Biking on flat ground
General gardening (raking, trimming plants)
Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball)
Jogging or running
To improve your health, plan ahead and schedule time for physical activity. Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activities; or at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activities. It is best to spread physical activity across at least 3 days a week.
Children and adolescents should do a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities for at least 1 hour a day.
Muscle strengthening activities should target all of your major muscle groups, including your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. There are many ways to strengthen your muscles, including lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing body weight exercises (such as push-ups and lunges), and carrying heavy loads. One set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise is effective for increasing muscle strength, although two or three sets may be more beneficial.
Children usually gain muscle strength through their normal play activities, and do not need a structured program.
If you want to enjoy greater health and fitness benefits, try exercising longer, more often, or at a higher intensity. However, be cautious not to over exercise – it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Remember: Some physical activity is better than none. You can gain some health benefits by being physically active for as little as 10 minutes at a time. If you have not been active for a long time, this is a good way to start. By building up to more challenging activities slowly, you will reduce your risk of injury.
It is wise to check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have any special considerations, such as pregnancy, disabilities, or chronic conditions.
For more detailed information, read the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.