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Physical Activity Guidelines

Part 3. Keeping It Up, Stepping It Up

Photograph of a woman laughing.

Good habits!

"My friends and I have been walking at the mall 4 mornings a week for the past 6 months. We walk for 45 minutes each time, for a total of 3 hours a week. Our goal is to reach 5 hours a week. Sure, some mornings it is tough to get out of bed early to walk. But once I'm there, I am glad."

Adding more time

Already doing 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of aerobic physical activity? Good for you! Do you want to gain even more health benefits from physical activity? Slowly add more time to your weekly routine.

Strive to double your weekly activity time. Work to be active 5 or more hours each week. This activity level can lower your chances of getting breast and colon cancer. Read the next section to find out how to add more effort.

Gaining more health benefits!

Advice to follow:

To get more health benefits, add more time of aerobic physical activity.

  • Try to move from 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-level activities a week to 5 hours or more a week.

Adding more effort

Instead of doing only moderate-level activities, replace some with vigorous aerobic activities that will make your heart beat even faster. Adding vigorous activities provides benefits in less activity time. In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity provides the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity.

Have you been walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week? On 2 days, try jogging instead of walking for 15 minutes each time. Keep on walking for 30 minutes on the other 3 days.

Would you like to have stronger muscles? If you have been doing strengthening activities 2 days a week, try adding an extra day.

Mix it up!

You can do all moderate activities, all vigorous activities, or some of each. You should always start with moderate activities and then add vigorous activities little by little.

To mix it up, you can try 30 minutes of biking fast to and from your job 3 days a week. Then play softball for 60 minutes 1 day. Then lift weights for 2 days.

You've mixed vigorous aerobic activity (biking fast) with moderate aerobic activity (softball) and activities for stronger muscles (weights).

To add more effort, try some vigorous activities (check off the ones you will try):

  • Aerobic dance
  • Basketball
  • Fast dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as karate)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Riding a bike on hills or riding faster
  • Soccer
  • Swimming fast or swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

You can choose moderate or vigorous activities, or a mix of both each week

Advice to follow:

You should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level.

OR

You should do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level.

Do it your way!

You can replace some or all of your moderate activity with vigorous activity. With vigorous activities, you get similar health benefits in half the time it takes you with moderate ones.

Muscle strengthening activities

Remember to also do strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week.

Adding more time

Strive to double your weekly activity time. Work to be active 5 or more hours each week for even more health benefits.

For Everyone: Staying Safe and Avoiding Injury

Physical activity is generally safe for everyone. People who are physically fit have less chance of injury than those who are not fit. The health benefits you gain from being active are far greater than the chances of getting hurt. Being inactive is definitely not good for your health.

Here are some things you can do to stay safe while you are active:

  • If you haven't been active in a while, start slowly and build up.
  • Learn about the types and amounts of activity that are right for you.
  • Choose activities that are appropriate for your fitness level.
  • Build up the time you spend before switching to activities that take more effort.
  • Use the right safety gear and sports equipment.
  • Choose a safe place to do your activity.
  • See a health care provider if you have a health problem.

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