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More Information about Physical Activity
General Information
Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy.
Some of your daily life activities—yard work, walking the dog—are examples. The Physical Activity Tracker groups activities as aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening.
Happy Families
  • Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster.
    Aerobic activities can be moderate or vigorous in their intensity. Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. For moderate activities, you can talk while you do them, but you can’t sing. For vigorous activities, you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger.
    These include activities like push-ups and lifting weights. It is important to work all the different parts of the body—your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
  • Bone strengthening activities make your bones stronger.
    Bone strengthening activities, like jumping and running, are especially important for children and adolescents. These activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength.
Regular physical activity can produce long term health benefits.
People of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from being physically active. The more physical activity you do, the greater the health benefits.
  • Being physically active can help you:
    • Increase your chances of living longer
    • Feel better about yourself
    • Decrease your chances of becoming depressed
    • Sleep well at night
    • Move around more easily
    • Have stronger muscles and bones
    • Stay at or get to a healthy weight
    • Be with friends or meet new people
    • Enjoy yourself and have fun
  • When you are not physically active, you are more likely to:
    • Get heart disease
    • Get type 2 diabetes
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Have high blood cholesterol
    • Have a stroke
You can choose moderate or vigorous intensity activities, or a mix of both each week.
Activities can be considered vigorous, moderate, or light in intensity. This depends on the extent to which they make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster.

Only moderate and vigorous intensity activities count toward meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines. With vigorous activities, you get similar health benefits in half the time it takes you with moderate ones. The Physical Activity Tracker tracks the amount of activity you do in “Moderate-Intensity Equivalents (MIE).”

1 minute of moderate-intensity activity = 1 minute MIE
1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity = 2 minutes MIE

You can replace some or all of your moderate activity with vigorous activity. The Physical Activity Tracker uses MIE so that you can quickly see how close you are to meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines.

Light-intensity activities, like walking slowly, aren’t included in your total in the Physical Activity Tracker. They don’t count toward your target amount of activity because they do not make you breathe harder or your heart beat faster. However, some activity is better than none. If you’ve been inactive, start with light-intensity physical activity, and gradually build up to moderate-intensity.

Physical activity is generally safe for everyone.
The health benefits you gain from being active are far greater than the chances of getting hurt. 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.

If you have health problems, see a health care provider.

The Physical Activity Tracker is based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines were released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can find more information at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/

Benefits of Physical Activity for Adults
150 - 299 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
(or 75 – 149 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination)
Benefits
Explanation
Get Health Benefits
When adults do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, the benefits are substantial. These benefits include lower risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Maintain Weight
Adults should aim for a healthy, stable body weight. In combination with managing Calorie intake, the amount of physical activity necessary to achieve this weight varies greatly from person to person. The first step in achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is to meet the minimum level of physical activity in the Guidelines. For some people this will result in a stable and healthy body weight, but for many, more physical activity is needed to manage weight.
300 or more minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
(or 150 or more minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity or an equivalent combination)
Benefits
Explanation
Get Extensive Health Benefits
Not all health benefits of physical activity occur at 150 minutes a week. As a person moves from 150 minutes a week toward 300 minutes (5 hours) a week, he or she gains additional health benefits. Additional benefits include lower risk of colon and breast cancer and prevention of unhealthy weight gain.
Lose Weight
In addition to reducing Calorie intake, many adults will need to do more than the 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity as part of a program to lose weight. These adults should do more physical activity and/or further reduce their Caloric intake. Some people will need to do the equivalent of 300 or more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to meet their weight-loss goals.
Keep Weight Off
In addition to managing Calorie intake, many adults will need to do more than the 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity as part of a program to keep weight off after losing it. These adults should do more physical activity and/or further reduce their Caloric intake. Some people will need to do the equivalent of 300 or more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week to meet their weight-control goals.
For health benefits, be active for at least 10 minutes at a time.
For adults, physical activity performed for less than 10 minutes doesn’t count toward your target amount of activity in the Physical Activity Tracker. However, being active for just 10 minutes at a time can give you health benefits.
Physical Activity Information for Children Ages 2‒5
Kids Playing
The Physical Activity Tracker is designed for individuals age 6 and older. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans do not include specific guidelines for children less than 6 years of age. Children ages 2‒5 should play actively several times every day. Their activity may happen in short bursts of time and not be all at once. More information about physical activity for 2-5 year olds.
Important Physical Activity Information for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
Pregnant Woman Walking
Healthy women who are not already highly active or doing vigorous intensity activity should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preferably, this activity should be spread throughout the week. Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous intensity aerobic activity or are highly active can continue physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period, provided that they remain healthy and discuss with their health care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.

Use the My Goals feature to set your own physical activity goal. This will allow the Physical Activity Tracker to track your progress toward an amount of activity that is right for you.

Please refer to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for more information about physical activity for pregnant and postpartum women.

Physical Activity Information for Older Adults
Older Adults Exercising
For older adults, choose a level of activity that is comfortable and safe for you. Include activities that can maintain or improve balance, if you are at risk of falling.

The intensity of your activity depends on your fitness level. For some activities you perform, it may feel more or less difficult than the intensity level listed in the Physical Activity Tracker. You can use this scale to determine the intensity of activity that is appropriate for you:

On a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is resting and 10 is the greatest effort possible):

  • Moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6, and you will notice increases in your breathing rate and heart rate
  • Vigorous-intensity is a 7 or 8 on this scale and results in large increases in breathing and heart rates