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Physical Activity Guidelines

Part 4. Being Active for Life

Finding out what kind and how much physical activity you need

How do I do it?

It's your choice. Pick an activity that's easy to fit into your life. Do at least 10 minutes of physical activity at a time. Choose aerobic activities that work for you. These make your heart beat faster and can make your heart, lungs, and blood vessels stronger and more fit. Also, do strengthening activities which make your muscles do more work than usual.

Why should I be physically active?

Physical activity can make you feel stronger and more alive. It is a fun way to be with your family or friends. It also helps you improve your health.

How many times a week should I be physically active?

It is up to you, but it is better to spread your activity throughout the week and to be active at least 3 days a week.

How do I build up more physical activity?

Do a little more each time. Once you feel comfortable, do it more often. Then you can trade activities at a moderate level for vigorous ones that take more effort. You can do moderate and vigorous activities in the same week.

How much physical activity do I need to do?

This chart tells you about the activities that are important for you to do. Do both aerobic activities and strengthening activities. Each offers important health benefits. And remember, some physical activity is better than none!

Aerobic Activities

If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.

If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.

  • Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities. The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain. Aim for twice the amount of activity in the box at left.
  • Do at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • You can combine moderate and vigorous activities.

Muscle Strengthening Activities

Do these at least 2 days a week.

  • Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
  • Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.

How can I tell an activity at a moderate level from a vigorous one?

Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. Here are just a few moderate and vigorous aerobic physical activities. Do these for 10 minutes or more at a time.

Moderate Activities (I can talk while I do them, but I can't sing.)

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Using your manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous Activities (I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath.)

  • Aerobic dance
  • Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Fast dancing
  • Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as karate)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
  • Swimming fast or swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

Keeping track of what you do each week

Make copies of the forms that follow to write down your goals and track your activities each week. There are examples first, and then blank forms for your use.

The first form is for aerobic activities. The second form is for strengthening activities. Be active your way by choosing activities you enjoy!

Photograph of a woman smiling.

Tracking works!

"I made a copy of the tracking forms and keep them handy to fill out each day. Know what? When I fill out the forms—it's easier to reach my weekly goal."

Example: My aerobic activities this week

My goal is to do aerobic activities for a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes this week.

When I did it and for how long

What I did

Effort

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Total hours or minutes

Walked

Moderate

 

30 min

30 min

 

30 min

 

30 min

2 hours

Biked fast

Vigorous

         

30 min

 

30 min

                   
                   
                   
                   

This is the total number of hours or minutes I did these activities this week:

2 hours and 30 min

Example: My strengthening activities this week

My goal is to do strengthening activities for a total of 2 days this week.

When I did it

What I did

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Total days

Sit-ups

Yes

           

1 day

Stretch bands

     

Yes

     

1 day

                 
                 
                 
                 

This is the total number of days I did these activities this week:

2 days

My aerobic activities this week

My goal is to do aerobic activities for a total of ______ hours and ______ minutes this week.

When I did it and for how long

What I did

Effort

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Total hours or minutes

                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   

This is the total number of hours or minutes I did these activities this week:

 

My strengthening activities this week

My goal is to do strengthening activities for a total of ______ days this week.

When I did it

What I did

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Total days

                 
                 
                 
                 
                 
                 

This is the total number of days I did these activities this week:

 

Notes







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