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Physical Activity

The goal of the physical activity line of effort is to promote year-round physical conditioning programs that emphasize total fitness, to include proper aerobic conditioning, and muscular fitness training. An active lifestyle will increase productivity, optimize health, and decrease absenteeism while maintaining a higher level of readiness.

Reach out to your local Health Promotion team for more information on how you can stay physically active.

Physical activity is key to improving health

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is an essential resource from the Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, on how people can improve their health through regular physical activity. It is based on the latest scientific evidence that shows physical activity has many health benefits independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.

To attain the most health benefits from physical activity, it is recommended that adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or anything that gets your heart beating faster, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least two days each week.

Graphic of How much activity do adults need? Infographic

Source: Move Your Way

Any amount of physical activity has some health benefits - even as little as 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day.

What is moderate or vigorous? Use the “talk test” to find out. When active try and talk:

  • If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily, you’re exercising at a moderate-intensity.
  • If you can only say a few words before you have to take a breath, you’re exercising at a vigorous-intensity.

Physical activity can also reduce anxiety and blood pressure, as well as improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity. It can even help boost your mood and sharpen your focus.

New evidence shows that physical activity can help manage a person's current health conditions. For example, physical activity can decrease pain for people with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition. Increased physical activity can also improve bone health, physical function and a person's quality of life.

For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression. For all groups, physical activity reduces the risk of excessive weight gain and helps people maintain a healthy weight.

Consistently meeting the recommendations found in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can over time lead to long-term health benefits. For example, physical activity reduces the risk of eight types of cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung. Additionally, risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression, is also reduced.

Source: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Foundational movements for Airmen and Guardians

The foundational movements of an exercise program are the most basic movements you perform throughout your program, but they’re often parts of more complex movements or exercises too. Learning how to perform these basic movements correctly can help prevent injuries and enable you to perform more advanced movements as you become stronger. An example of this progression would be first learning how to perform an air squat and then progressing to a goblet squat, which requires that you hold weight at your chest, once you become stronger.

Foundational movements for Airmen and Guardians

These consist of deadlifts, pulling, squats, pushing, carries, and lunges. They are the most common movement patterns performed during military tasks and training. By working on these movements, you potentially can increase your physical performance (strength, power, speed, coordination, etc.) and reduce your chances of getting injured. In addition, you must engage and stabilize your core to safely and effectively perform all of these movements. Below is a brief description of each movement pattern and an example of when you would typically use it.


To perform a deadlift, bend at the hips and knees as you reach down, as if to pick up an object from the ground, and return to a standing position. An example of when you would use this movement is any time you pick something up from the ground. Correct performance of this movement is especially important when the object you are trying to pick up is heavy.


This refers to movements that use your upper body to pull objects toward you (such as rows) or pulling your body towards something (such as a pull-up). You also can do more coordinated and sequential movements using your legs and hips together to pull objects up to your shoulders (such as cleans).


To perform the air squat, you bend at the hips and knees, allowing your body to travel downward until the tops of your hips are below the tops of the knees, and then return to a standing position. The most common example of a squat-like movement is going from a seated to standing position (or vice versa).


Pushing refers to using your upper body to push objects away and your own body weight off something (such as with a push-up). In some situations, it is more practical to use momentum (as in pulling) from your legs and hips when pushing objects overhead or across a certain distance (such as pushing a sled).


The lunge involves taking a long step forward, bending your front knee, and allowing your back knee to come close to the ground, while keeping your torso perpendicular to the ground throughout the movement. You use this movement any time you must crouch down to one knee and when stepping upward/downward throughout different types of terrain.


Learning how to perform these foundational movements of functional fitness correctly enables your body to adapt and perform them safely, effectively, and efficiently. This eventually can help you become stronger and reduce injuries throughout your career.

Learn more: Introduction to the foundational movements of functional fitness

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Tips to make physical activity a daily routine

  1. Move more and sit less. This recommendation is based on new evidence showing a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and all-cause mortality. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks.
  2. Find ways to extend whatever gets you moving. You have to move anyway - find simple ways to incorporate additional physical activity into your current tasks. For example, park farther way, play with the kids 10 minutes longer, or walk the dog one more block.
  3. Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator. Seek opportunities to include a flight of stairs into your day. For example, use the restroom or water fountain on another floor.
  4. Everything need not feel like exercise. Finding physical activities you enjoy will increase your chance of doing them. Active video games, household tasks, gardening, dancing and even shoveling snow or mowing the lawn can increase your heart rate and be a health benefit.
  5. Exercise with a partner. When someone is counting on you to show up, chances are greater that you will. Develop a weekly exercise plan with a friend or default to a standing exercise appointment.