U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Get Active

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Regular physical activity is good for everyone's health.

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time. Then try getting active more often.

What kinds of activity should I do?
To get all the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

  • Aerobic (“air-OH-bik”) activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups.
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The Basics: Health Benefits

What are the benefits of physical activity?
Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. It can also help:

  • Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
  • Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
  • Prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes

And that’s not all. Being more active can:

  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Improve your sleep
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Help you feel better about yourself

Is physical activity for everyone?
Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out-of-shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you.

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The Basics: Health Conditions

What if I’m overweight?
If you are overweight or obese, getting active can help you lower your risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancer

Find out more about how you can be active at any size.

What if I have a health condition?
If you have a health condition like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, physical activity can help you manage it. Ask your doctor what types of activity are best for you.

Visit these websites to learn more about:

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The Basics: Learn More

What if I have a disability?
If you have a disability, your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. You can also use these tips to stay active with a disability.

Where can I learn more?
Visit these websites to learn more about physical activity for:

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Take Action!

Take Action: How Active Are You?

First, think about your current physical activity level.

How active are you now?

The tips in this section are for adults. Use these tips to help your kids get more active.

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Take Action: Get Started

I’m just getting started.
Start out slowly and add new physical activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, do them longer and more often. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these examples of physical activity plans [PDF - 78 K].

For help getting motivated, sign up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) challenge.

Choose activities that you enjoy.
Team up with a friend or join a class. Ask your family and friends to be active with you. Play games like tennis or basketball, or take a class in dance or martial arts.

Everyday activities can add up to an active lifestyle. You can:

  • Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
  • Ride a bicycle to work or just for fun
  • Play outdoor games with your children

Get more tips on getting active.

Have fun with your family.
If you have children, you can be a role model for making healthy choices. Encourage your whole family to get active outside. Go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.

If someone you know has trouble making time for physical activity, use these tips to help your loved one get more active.

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Take Action: Build Muscles

Strengthen your muscles.
Try some of these activities a few days a week:

  • Crunches (sit-ups)
  • Heavy gardening, like digging or shoveling
  • Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall
  • Lifting small weights – you can even use bottled water or cans of food as weights

Watch these videos for muscle strengthening exercises to do at home or at the gym.

If you do muscle-strengthening activities with weights, check out the do’s and don’ts of training with weights.

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Take Action: Track Progress

Track your progress.
Use this score chart to measure your current fitness level [PDF - 80 KB]. Fill out the chart again after you get moving, and see your score go up over time.

Use a pedometer.
A pedometer clips onto your belt or waistband and counts the number of steps you take. Make it your goal to take at least 10,000 steps a day. Increase the number of steps you take each day until you reach your goal.

Red Pedometer
A pedometer counts the number of steps you take.

Check out these tips for using a pedometer.

Be realistic.
Remember, it’s not all or nothing. Even 10 minutes of activity is better than none! Try walking for 10 minutes a day a few days a week.

Find a time that works for you. See if you can fit in 10 minutes of activity before work or after dinner.

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Take Action: Add More Activity

I’m doing a little, but I’m ready to get more active.
You may already be feeling the benefits of getting active, such as sleeping better or getting toned. Here are 2 ways to add more activity to your life.

  • Be active for longer each time. If you are walking 3 days a week for 30 minutes, try walking for an additional 10 minutes or more each day.
  • Be active more often. If you are riding your bike to work 2 days a week, try riding your bike to work 4 days a week.

Find time in your schedule.
Look at your schedule for the week. Find a few 30-minute time periods you can use for more physical activity. Put them in your calendar. Try these ways to build more active time into your busy week.

Keep track of your activities with this activity log [PDF - 170 KB].

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Take Action: Challenge Yourself

I’m already physically active, and I want to keep it up.
If you are already active for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week, you can get even more health benefits by stepping up your routine.

Getting more physical activity can further lower your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

Do more vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity has the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes.

Mix it up.
Mix vigorous activities with moderate ones. Try joining a fitness group or gym class. Don’t forget to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week.

Challenge yourself.
Check out the Presidential Champions program to get personalized activity logs, training tips, and more. See just how high you can raise your activity level!

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