Volume and Intensity

Should everyone get the same amount of physical activity?

The amount of physical activity individuals should get each week differs based on a number of factors. The amount and types of activity needed varies based on age and special conditions. These conditions include pregnancy and the postpartum period for women, disabilities, and chronic medical or health conditions.

At a minimum, all adults and older adults should aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week. Youth should be active for 1 hour each day. Individuals have many choices about appropriate types and amounts of activity. To make these choices, American adults need to set personal goals for physical activity. People can meet the Guidelines and their own personal goals through different amounts and types of activity.

Inactive persons can begin to gain the health benefits as they increase their physical activity even before they reach 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Isn’t it better for older adults to "take it easy" and save their strength?

Regular physical activity is very important to the health and abilities of older people. In fact, studies show that "taking it easy" is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not active. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.

How hard should I exercise?

No-one can tell you exactly how many pounds to lift or how steep a hill you should climb to reach a moderate or vigorous level of exercise because what’s easy for one person might be difficult for another. You should match your activity to your own needs and abilities. Start from where you are and build up from there. Listen to your body. During moderate activity, for instance, you can sense that you are pushing yourself but that you aren’t near your limit. As you become more fit, gradually make your activities more difficult. Generally, the more vigorous the activity and the more time you spend doing it, the more health benefits you will receive.

How long do I need to be active before I see results?

Once you start being physically active, you’ll begin to see results in just a few weeks. You may feel stronger and more energetic than before. You may notice that you can do things more easily, faster, or for longer than before. As you become more fit, you may need to make your activities more challenging to see additional results.

Do I need to do other exercises in addition to my usual walking routine?

Most people tend to focus on one type of exercise or activity and think they’re doing enough. Try to do all four types — endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance — because each one has different benefits. Doing one kind also can improve your ability to do the others. In addition, variety helps reduce boredom and risk of injury.

Is it better to join an exercise class or group, or exercise on my own?

There are many ways to be active. The key is to find activities you truly enjoy. If you prefer individual activities, try swimming, gardening, or walking. Dancing or playing tennis may be for you if you enjoy two-person activities. If group activities appeal to you, try a sport such as basketball or join an exercise class. Some people find that going to a gym regularly or working with a fitness trainer helps them stay motivated.