What is physical activity?
Physical activity is generally defined as any movement of the body that requires the use of energy. Often times the term exercise is used interchangeably with physical activity, however according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans exercise is considered a form of physical activity that is “planned, structured, repetitive, and performed with the goal of improving health or fitness.” Not all physical activity is considered exercise. Examples include walking, gardening, playing a sport, doing housework or cleaning, dancing, riding a bicycle, swimming, and climbing stairs. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity to gain health benefits.
Why is physical activity important?
Obesity and the risks of certain chronic diseases due to sedentary behavior are major public health problems in the United States. Regular physical activity, along with proper nutrition, is beneficial and can improve the health of people of all ages.
Benefits of regular physical activity
- Prevent chronic diseases
- Weight control
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Improve sleep
- Decrease potential of becoming depressed/reduce depression symptoms
- Improve cognitive functions
- Relieve stress
- Increase chances of living longer
- Increase energy and self-esteem
- Decrease body fat
Risks of not being physically active
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Certain types of cancers
Physical activity recommendations
It is recommended that youth, ages 6-17, get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. You don’t need to be active for long periods of time to meet the recommendations. Physical activity can be split up throughout your day. For example, youth can be active for short periods of time before school, during recess, and after school to get their 60 minutes.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Gui...
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/importance-of-physical-activity/in...
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Choose MyPlate.gov Website. (2018). Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity