Move more

It is important to protect your heart and bones through physical activity at any age. You may not be able to keep up with all those 20-year-olds, but you should still strive for wellness or fitness without pushing yourself too hard.

Physical activity is essential to achieve physical health, emotional well-being and a healthy weight. Physical activity may help you control your weight by using excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat. Most foods and many beverages contain calories and everything you do uses calories. This includes sleeping, breathing, digesting food and, of course, moving around. Balancing the calories you eat with the calories you use through physical activity may help you maintain your current weight.

How much physical activity do I need for general health?

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. This amount of physical activity may reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.

To lose weight, experts recommend that you do 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. In addition, you should follow a nutritious eating plan and consume fewer calories than you burn each day. Remember that your weight may be affected by the balance of “calories-in” and “calories-out.”

In order to keep off excess weight once you’ve lost it, experts recommend that you do 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while continuing to eat nutritious foods that do not exceed your calorie requirements. Studies show that physical activity is very important to successful long-term weight control.

Becoming physically active

Physical activity may include structured activities such as walking, jogging, strength training or sports. It may also include daily activities such as household chores, yard work or walking the dog. Pick a combination of structured and daily activities that fits your schedule.

If you have been inactive for a while, start slowly and work up to at least 30 minutes per day at a pace that is comfortable for you. If you are unable to be active for 30 minutes at one time, accumulate activity over the course of the day in 10- to 15-minute sessions. For example, whether you take three 10-minute walks or walk for 30 minutes all at once, you will achieve the same health benefits.

If you want to lose weight, you may need to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Remember that you can be active in several shorter sessions and that your daily activities count towards calories used.

Make active choices during your day

Here are some ideas to help you start your physical activity program:

  • Take a brisk walk around the block with family, friends or coworkers.
  • Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator when it is safe to do so.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Take an activity break at work or home. Get up, stretch and walk around.
  • Park your car farther away from entrances of stores, movie theatres or your home and walk the extra distance when it is safe to do so.
  • Take a beginner’s level low-impact aerobics or step class.

Some content courtesy of the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). The original content and additional information can be found at http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/physical.htm.

Revised: June 7, 2011

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.