One thing to remember is some physical activity is better than none. Adults gain some health benefits when participating in any amount of physical activity. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults (aged 18 to 64 years) to incorporate aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity in each week.
Remember to start slowly! Aim for light or moderate intensity for short periods of time. Make sure to spread out the physical activity sessions throughout the week. Increase physical activity gradually over a period of weeks to months.
Talk to your doctor if you have a chronic health condition (such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes) or symptoms (such as chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or joint pain) before starting a physical activity program.
Warm-up and Cool-down
It is important to incorporate slower speed or lower intensity activities at the beginning and end of your routine to properly warm up and cool down your body. This helps to prevent injuries and reduce muscle soreness. Examples of warming-up would be to walk briskly before jogging or lift a lighter weight before completing the actual weight used during weight training. After completing the physical activity, gradually slow down or lower intensity to help the body cool down. Good news, adults can count the time spent during warm-up and cool-down towards meeting aerobic activity guidelines.
To gain the most health benefits, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Perform aerobic activity for at least 3 days a week to help avoid excessive fatigue and reduce risk of injury. It counts as long as the aerobic activity is performed at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Examples of Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activities:
- Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
- Water aerobics
- Bicycling on level ground or with few hills (slower than 10 miles per hour)
- Tennis (doubles)
- Ballroom dancing
- General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
- Ballroom and line dancing
- Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
- Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
Examples of Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activities:
- Racewalking, jogging, or running
- Swimming laps
- Tennis (singles)
- Aerobic dancing
- Fast dancing
- Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
- Jumping rope
- Heavy Gardening (continuous digging or hoeing, with heart rate increases)
- Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
- Martial arts (such as karate)
- Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
Two benefits of participating in muscle-strengthening activity are increased bone strength and muscular fitness. Adults should participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week while including all major muscle groups: the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. One set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise is effective, but doing two or three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions may be more effective. Stronger muscles occur after increases in the amount of weight or the days each week of exercising.
Examples of Muscle-Strengthening Activities:
- Resistance training
- Weight training
- Resistance bands
- Calisthenics that use body weight for resistance (push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups)
- Carrying heavy loads
- Heavy gardening (digging or hoeing)
Even though flexibility does not have recommended guidelines, it is an important part of physical fitness. Flexibility plays an integral part in some types of physical activities such as dancing. Adults should perform stretching exercises to help increase flexibility. Activities that require greater flexibility is easier for adults who perform stretching exercises.
- Physical Activity for Adults (Source: CDC)
- Chapter 4: Active Adults (Source: DHHS)
- Chapter 6: Safe and Active (Source: DHHS)
- Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults (Source: DHHS)
- Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults (Source: DHHS)
- Physical Activity and Weight Control (Source: DHHS)
- Walk, and Enjoy the View! (Source: Food Reflections)
- Getting on Track - Physical Activity and Healthy Eating for Men (Source: NIDDK)
- Learn the Art of Energizing Yourself (Source: UNL Wellness)
- Fitness Indulgence (Source: UNL Extension)
- Tai Chi: Movement for Health Benefits (Source: UNL Extension)
- Taking Action: 10 Steps for Healthy Weight Management in Adults (Source: UNL NebGuide)
- Commonsense Guidelines for Healthy Women (Source: UNL NebGuide)
- Get Moving: Easy Tips to Get Active! (Source: American Heart Association)
- Start Walking Now (Source: American Heart Association)