To improve overall conditioning, health experts, including the Surgeon General of the United States, recommend at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on all or most days of the week.
Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or doing home repairs or yard work. If you can’t get in 30 minutes all at once, aim for shorter periods of activity—at least 10 minutes—that add up to a half hour per day. If you have not exercised in a long time, start with shorter sessions of 5 to 10 minutes and build gradually from there.
Structured exercise programs bring obvious benefits, but most people can move toward better fitness by changing their daily lifestyle to incorporate more activity. Muscles used in any activity, any time of day, contribute to fitness.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park at the far end of a parking lot and walk to the office or the mall.
- If you ride the bus, get off a few blocks before your stop and walk the rest of the way.
- Get up from your desk during the day to stretch and walk around.
- Take a brisk walk when you get the urge to snack.
- Increase your pace when working in the house or yard.
- Mow your own lawn and rake your own leaves.
- Carry your own groceries.
- Play outside with your children or grandchildren - it doesn't matter so much what - catch, hopscotch, or horseshoes - just keep moving.
When you’re ready for more vigorous activity, set realistic goals and expectations. Fitness and a healthy lifestyle are long-term endeavors, so start slowly, and work toward your goal gradually. As your fitness level improves, you can increase your time or distance or change to a more energetic activity.
Check with your physician before undertaking a vigorous exercise program, especially if you have chronic health problems (e.g., cardiovascular disease) or if you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50 with risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity.
Other articles in this series:
- Fitness Intro
- Physical Activity
- Make Exercise a Habit
- Fitness Definitions
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Health Fitness Instructor's Handbook; Edward Howley, B. Don Franks
- President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research
- Skill-related fitness for sports success; Dr. George R. Colfer
- Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health
- Federal Citizen Information Center
- American College of Sports Medicine
- What is fitness?; CrossFit Journal
Useful Web Links
- Nutrition (8)
- Fitness (5)
- Health (5)
- Natural (4)