What is physical activity?
Physical activity is big muscle
movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle. Such
movement substantially increases energy expenditure. Physical
activity includes walking, jogging, rowing, stair climbing, yard work,
hiking, dancing, swimming, gardening, housework, jumping rope,
bicycling, bowling and many other sports.
Why should I be physically active?
Regular physical activity
reduces a person's chances of dying of coronary heart disease, the
nation's leading cause of death, and decreases the risk for stroke,
colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also helps to
control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints;
reduces falls among older adults; helps to relieve the pain of
arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and is
associated with fewer hospitalizations, physician visits and
Physical activity need not be
strenuous to be beneficial; people of all ages benefit from
participating in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity, such
as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week. These minutes
may be accumulated during the day: for example, three 10-minute
sessions of physical activity or two 15-minute sessions. However,
30-45 minutes of continuous exercise most days of the week is an
How do I start a physical activity program?
Experts advise people with
chronic diseases, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes or
high blood pressure, to talk to their doctor about what types and
amounts of activity are appropriate, before beginning a new physical
activity program. Symptoms of particular importance to evaluate
include chest pain, especially chest pain that is brought on by
exertion; loss of balance, particularly if it leads to falls;
dizziness and loss of consciousness.
There are 1,440 minutes in
every day; try to schedule 30-45 of them for physical activity. For
many people, before or after work or meals is often a good time to
cycle, walk or play. Think about your weekly or daily schedule and
look for or make opportunities to be more active. Every little bit
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What activity would be best for
you? The one that you will do on a regular basis. Consider the
What can I do to be more active?
- Walk, cycle, jog, skate
to work, school, the store or place of worship.
- Park the car farther away
from your destination.
- Get on or off the bus
several blocks away from your final destination.
- Take the stairs instead
of the elevator or escalator.
- Play with children or
pets. Everybody wins.
- If you find it is too
difficult to be active after work, try before work.
- Take fitness breaks --
walking or doing desk exercises -- instead of taking cigarette or
- Perform gardening or home
- Avoid labor-saving
devices. For example, turn off the self-propelled option on your
lawn mower or vacuum cleaner.
- Encourage a group to take
regular Saturday morning walks.
- Walk while doing errands.
- Wash and wax a car for
- Wash windows or floors
for 45-60 minutes.
- Rake leaves for 30
- Take a break to walk the
stairs for 15 minutes.
- Dance fast for 30
- Jump rope for 15 minutes.
- Play basketball or shoot
baskets for 30 minutes.
- Walk around while you are
on the phone.
- Limit TV remote control
[LDN and Illinois
Department of Public Health]