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Active Living

Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most important things you and your family can do to maintain and improve your health. When considering an exercise program, it’s important to think about activity type, intensity, duration, and frequency. It’s also important to choose activities you enjoy.

The four main types of physical activity are:

  • Aerobic
  • Muscle-strengthening
  • Bone-strengthening, and
  • Stretching

Aerobic activity often benefits your heart and lungs the most. This type of activity moves your large muscles, such as those in your arms and legs. Running, swimming, walking, bicycling, dancing, and doing jumping jacks are examples of aerobic activity. Aerobic activity makes your heart beat faster than usual and you also breathe harder during this type of activity. Over time, regular aerobic activity makes your heart and lungs stronger and increases your endurance.

Muscle-strengthening activities improve the strength, power, and endurance of your muscles. Doing pushups and situpssit-ups, lifting weights, climbing stairs, and digging in the garden are examples of muscle-strengthening activities. With bone-strengthening activities, your feet, legs, or arms support your body's weight, and your muscles push against your bones. This helps make your bones strong. Running, walking, jumping rope, and lifting weights are examples of bone-strengthening activities. Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities also can be aerobic, depending on whether they make your heart and lungs work harder than usual. For example, running is both an aerobic activity and a bone-strengthening activity.

Stretching activities help improve your flexibility and your ability to fully move your joints. Touching your toes, doing side stretches, and doing yoga exercises are examples of stretching activities.

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s generally recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Examples of this kind of exercise are brisk walking, biking, swimming, and playing tennis or basketball. The 150 minutes can be spread out in short spurts over the week, for example, doing 30 minutes of activity at least five times a week.

It’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider before starting a physical activity program. This is especially important for men older than 40 and women older than 50 who plan a vigorous program or who have a serious health condition or risk factors for a serious health condition.

Being physically active is one of the best ways to keep your heart and lungs healthy. Following a healthy diet and not smoking are other important ways to keep your heart and lungs healthy. Many Americans are not active enough. The good news, though, is that even modest amounts of physical activity are good for your health. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.