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Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscles that increases energy expenditure above a basal level. Bodily movement can be divided into two categories:

  • Baseline activity refers to the light-intensity activities of daily life, such as standing, walking slowly, and lifting lightweight objects. People vary in how much baseline activity they do. People who do only baseline activity are considered to be inactive. They may do very short episodes of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity, such as climbing a few flights of stairs, but these episodes aren’t long enough to count toward meeting the Guidelines.
  • Health-enhancing physical activity is activity that, when added to baseline activity, produces health benefits. Brisk walking, jogging, dancing, lifting weights, playing sports, and doing yoga are all examples of physical activity.

Adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who aren’t active — regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans focuses on reducing the risk of chronic disease and promoting health-related fitness, particularly cardiovascular and muscular fitness.

Guidelines for Health-Enhancing Physical Activity

  • Do aerobic physical activity in episodes of at least 10 minutes and, if possible, spread it out through the week.
  • Do Aerobic Activity: For substantial health benefits, do one of the following:
    • 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
    • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
    • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
  • Avoid Inactivity: Some physical activity is better than none — and any amount has health benefits.
  • For even greater health benefits, do one of the following:
    • Increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) each week
    • Increase vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week
  • Do Muscle-Strengthening Activity: includes resistance training and lifting weights and causes the body’s muscles to work or hold against an applied force or weight.
    • Exercise all of the major muscle groups (leg, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least 2x per week.
    • No specific amount of time is recommended for muscle strengthening, but muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed to the point at which it would be difficult to do another repetition without help


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