Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

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Bad habits are hard to break. Good habits can be too. Regular (daily or at least most days of the week) physical activity is one habit that should be unbreakable if you want to maintain or improve your health.

SHORT TERM BENEFITS

Short term benefits from regular physical activity:

  • A healthier heart
  • Increased endurance
  • Healthy muscles, bones, and joints
  • Improved burning of calories
  • More energy
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • A sense of well-being
  • Improved ability to fall asleep and sleep well

LONG TERM BENEFITS

Reduced risk of:

  • Dying prematurely
  • Dying from heart disease
  • Developing diabetes
  • Developing high blood pressure
  • Becoming obese
  • Developing colon cancer
  • Experiencing a stroke

BEING ACTIVE

Choose a variety of activities that you enjoy doing regularly and engage in these at moderate intensity for at least 30 to 60 minutes at least 5 days per week. It is not necessary to exercise all in one session. Several 10-15 minute sessions can be just as effective.

EXERCISE INTENSITY

One way to determine how strenuously you are exercising is to see if you can talk while you are exercising. If you can talk easily, you are working at a light to moderate rate -- you may want to increase the rate of exercise in order to make it more strenuous. If you become out of breath quickly, you are probably working too hard.

LENGTH OF EXERCISE SESSION AND INTENSITY

Exercise that raises your heart rate is ideal, but exercise does not necessarily need to be strenuous to be beneficial; many activities of daily living such as climbing stairs or walking from the train to your office can provide benefits. If you choose a less vigorous activity, you should spend more time doing that activity. For example, you need a longer session of brisk walking (30 minutes or longer) to experience some of the similar benefits of a shorter session of a more strenuous exercise like jogging (15 to 20 minutes). Build up to a longer session or more strenuous exercise gradually.

CALORIES BURNED DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES*

ACTIVITY

CALORIES BURNED PER HOUR

 

MAN**

WOMAN**

LIGHT ACTIVITY

300

240

Cleaning house, playing baseball, playing golf

   

MODERATE ACTIVITY

460

370

Walking briskly (3.5 mph), gardening, cycling (5.5 mph), dancing, playing basketball

   

STRENUOUS ACTIVITY

730

580

Jogging (9 min/mile), playing football, swimming

   

VERY STRENUOUS ACTIVITY

920

740

Running (7 min/mile), racquetball, skiing

   

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, US Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Third edition, 1990 (adapted from McArdle et al., "Exercise Physiology," 1986)

* may vary depending on variety of factors including environmental conditions

** healthy man, 175 pounds; healthy woman 140 pounds.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

American Heart Association 800/AHA-USA1 or www.americanheart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). NHLBI Information Center 301/592-8573 or www.nhlbi.nih.gov

Brian Pace, MA, Writer
Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor

Reproduced with permission from JAMA Patient Page, June 14, 2000 (not copyrighted).

Brian Pace, MA