Physical activity


Physical activity -- which includes an active lifestyle and routine exercise -- plus eating well, is the best way to stay healthy.

Fitness Facts & Fiction Quiz

Which of the following is a benefit of regular exercise?

The correct answer is: "All of the above." Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. Exercise helps your body work better. It can also make you look better, feel better, and even live longer.

How much daily exercise do children need?

The correct answer is: "60 minutes." Even children who prefer staying inside and playing video games can learn to be active during the day. They can ride their bike to school, play active computer games, or help out with chores around the house.

Kids are more likely to exercise if their parents are active too.

The correct answer is: "Fact." When you are active, your child will be too. Take walks before dinner, play hoops, or throw a baseball. Encourage your child to join a sports team. Some kids prefer team sports like soccer, and others prefer sports like swimming or tennis. Let your child choose.

Regular exercise is good for your bones.

The correct answer is: "Fact." Doing weight-bearing exercises will help keep them strong and lower your risk of bone loss and breaks as you get older. Walking and strength training are good options. If you are older, haven't been active, or have a health problem, talk with your doctor before starting to exercise.

Exercise can help you fight infections by:

The correct answer is: "Making your immune system stronger." Exercise helps your immune system fight off infections from bacteria and viruses. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Weight or strength training can build muscle and improve strength at any age.

The correct answer is: "Fact." Doing weight or strength training will build your muscles and make you stronger. Even older adults can gain strength from these exercises. Use free-weights, resistance bands, or weight machines at a gym. Start slow, and work up to two 30-minute sessions every week.

This is an important part of an exercise program:

The correct answer is: "A and D," warming up and cooling down and stretching. Warm up your muscles and joints with gentle, full-body movements for 5 to 10 minutes before exercising. This can help prevent injury. Cool down by walking slowly then stretching muscles to help prevent muscle strains after exercise.

Some exercises can make you less likely to fall.

The correct answer is "Fact." Exercises that improve balance make you stronger, more flexible, and increase how long you can be active. One simple example is to stand on one foot while waiting in line. Or sit down and stand up without using your hands. Tai Chi and yoga can also help you develop balance.

Which of the following can help prevent sports injuries?

The correct answer is: "All of the above." But if you do get hurt, stop playing. Never try to work through the pain because this can cause more damage. Minor aches and pains you can treat yourself at home. More serious injuries should be treated by a doctor right away.

Some people just don’t have time to be physically active.

The correct answer is: "Fiction." Being more active takes effort, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Break 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions and work it into your schedule. Plan to exercise during the time of day you like best, before work, at lunch, or in the evening. Or, build it into your commute. Find what works best for you.

Alternative Names

Fitness recommendations; Exercise - physical activity


An effective exercise program needs to be fun and keep you motivated. It helps to have a goal.

Your goal might be to:

  • Manage a health condition
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your stamina
  • Buy clothes in a smaller size

Your exercise program can also be a good way for you to socialize. Taking exercise classes or exercising with a friend are both good ways to be social.

You may have a hard time starting an exercise routine, but once you do start, you may begin to notice other benefits, such as:

  • Better control of your weight and appetite
  • Improved fitness, making it easier to do everyday activities
  • Improved sleep
  • More confidence in yourself
  • Lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure


You do not need to join a gym to exercise. If you have not exercised or been active in a long time, start slowly to prevent injuries. Taking a brisk 10-minute walk twice a week is a good start.

Try joining a dance, yoga, or karate class if it appeals to you. You could also join a baseball or bowling team, or even a mall-walking group. The social aspects of these groups can be rewarding and motivating.

The most important thing is to do exercises that you can maintain and enjoy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program if:

  • You have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or another long-term illness
  • You are obese
  • You have not been very active lately
  • You get chest pains or shortness of breath when you are active 


Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference over time.

  • At work, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking down the hall to talk with a co-worker instead of sending an email, or adding a 10- to 20-minute walk during lunch.
  • When you are running errands, try parking at the far end of the parking lot or down the street. Even better, walk to the store or other nearby places.
  • At home, do chores such as vacuuming, washing the car, gardening, raking leaves, or shoveling snow.
  • If you ride the bus or other public transportation, get off 1 stop before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.


Sedentary behaviors are things you do while you are sitting still. Decreasing your sedentary behaviors can help you lose weight. For most people, the best way to decrease sedentary behaviors is to reduce the time they spend watching TV and using a computer and other electronic devices. All of these activities are called "screen time."

Some ways to decrease screen time are:

  • Choose 1 or 2 TV programs to watch, and turn off the TV when they are over.
  • Do not keep the TV on all the time for background noise -- you might end up sitting down and watching it. Turn on the radio instead. You can be up doing things around the house and still listen to the radio.
  • Do not eat while you watch TV.
  • Take the batteries out of your TV remote control and get up to change the channel.
  • Before you turn on the TV, take your dog or a neighbor's dog for a walk. If you are going to miss your favorite show, record it.
  • Find activities to replace TV watching. Read a book, play a board game with family or friends, or take an evening cooking class.
  • Work out on an exercise or yoga ball while you watch TV. You will burn calories. Or, set up a stationary bike or treadmill in front of your TV and use it while you watch.

If you like playing video games, try games that require you to move your whole body, not just your thumbs.

Exercise - a powerful tool

Exercise - a powerful tool


The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get a total of 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity. You could also meet this recommendation with an equivalent amount of combined moderate and intense activity. Muscle strengthening, also called strength training, resistance training, or endurance exercise, should also be done 2 or more days a week.

As you become more fit, you can challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your exercise by going from light to moderate activity. You can also increase the amount of time you exercise.


Exercise can lower blood pressure
Aerobic exercise
Benefit of regular exercise
Flexibility exercise
Isometric exercise
Exercise and age
Exercise with friends
Exercise - a powerful tool
Physical activity - preventive medicine
Exercise and heart rate


Buchner DM, Kraus WE. Physical activity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 13.

Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, et al. The Physical activity guidelines for Americans. JAMA. 2018;320(19):2020-2028. PMID: 30418471

Ridker PM, Libby P, Buring JE. Risk markers and the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann, DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 45.

Review Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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