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University of Minnesota Extension

Healthy and fit on the go: Physical activity

How much physically active should adults get?

All adults should be more physically active. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. Try to sit less and move more. Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity. That’s 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. You can break it up during the day but try to move more every day.

Spend more time or work more intensely at physical activity, and you’ll discover even more health benefits. Aim for 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity every week. The more activity you do, the greater the health benefits.

Adults will also benefit from engaging in muscle-strengthening exercises at least two times per week. Weight training or resistance training provides several additional health benefits such as reducing bone loss, fewer falls and increasing metabolism.

Exercise intensity

Light intensity

What is light-intensity physical activity? Any form of movement where you are not sitting still or lying down is considered light intensity activity. All movement counts when it comes to reducing your risk for chronic disease. Some examples of light intensity activity include:

  • General gardening and yard work.

  • Walking or strolling.

  • Housework or chores.

  • Building a sand castle or a snowman.

Moderate intensity 

What is moderate intensity aerobic physical activity? If you’re working hard enough that your heart rate and breathing rate are elevated, and you can still talk in full sentences but you can’t sing a song, you are working at a moderate intensity. When you maintain that intensity for more than 10 minutes you are working aerobically, or with oxygen. Some examples include:

  • Walking briskly (15-20 minutes per mile).

  • Water aerobics.

  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour.

  • Yoga.

  • Ballroom dancing.

Vigorous intensity

What is vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity? If your heart rate and breathing rate are high enough that you can’t talk in full sentences, you have reached vigorous intensity. When you stay at that level for more than 10 minutes, you will improve your cardiovascular endurance by strengthening your heart and lungs and upping your body’s ability to use oxygen. Some examples include:

  • Race walking, jogging or running.

  • Swimming laps.

  • Fitness classes.

  • Bicycling more than 10 miles per hour.

  • Jumping rope.

Reviewed by Jimmie Johnson, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2023

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