Physical Activity: Benefits and Facts to Motivate and Encourage We’re taking a break from our Retirement Facts Series and reminding you to take a break from your desk. We want to bring some attention to physical activity – why it’s important, what you can do, and how to get the whole family involved. If you struggle with getting enough physical activity, you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected data on physical inactivity in the United States and created the following: If you noticed, most of the states are overwhelmingly inactive. This doesn’t have to be true for you individually. How Do We Figure Out the Right Amount of Activity? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion published the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2 nd edition in 2018. The guidelines recommend that adults should aim for the following amounts of activity a week: At least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) to 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity activity, OR 75 minutes (1 hr 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, OR A combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 25 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day would get you into the recommended range. Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Total Minutes 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 175 minutes (~3 hours) 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 210 minutes (3 1/2 hours) Note: If you’re already getting the recommended amount of activity, try to do a little bit more! Adults doing more than the 5 hours/week moderate-intensity activity can feel additional health benefits. Why Does it Matter so Much? Trying to fit in activity with a full workday can be daunting, but the long-term health benefits make the time worth it. Adult Health Benefits from the Physical Activity Guidelines Decreased risk of developing chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer) Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression Improved sleep and overall quality of life Temporary cognitive function and state anxiety improvements (from just a single episode of physical activity Improvement in completing everyday tasks without undue fatigue Improved cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness (healthier body weight and composition) It’s okay if you’re not used to exercising or getting a lot of physical activity. You can start small and add in 10 minutes of activity a day. If your goal is a total 30 minutes a day, break it up and do 10 minutes 3 times a day. What Kind of Exercise are We Talking about Exactly? You have a lot of options when it comes to the kind of physical activities you can do. These are just examples from the Guidelines, not a final list. Moderate-Intensity Activities Vigorous-Intensity Activities Walking briskly Recreational swimming Bike riding Tennis Power yoga Ballroom or line dancing General yard work and home repair Exercise classes Jogging or running Swimming laps Bicycling faster than 10mph Tennis Dancing Heavy yard work Exercise classes like step aerobics or kickboxing Hiking uphill High-intensity interval training (HIIT) You can try out different activities and find the one you most enjoy. Get the Whole Family Involved Go for a walk down up and down your street or try out a local park. Not sure where the nearest park is? You can use sites dedicated to connecting people to parks like Map of Play to find a park that works for you. Have a gym membership but worry about what the kids will do? Some gyms have children care centers during daylight hours where your kids can get supervised play time while you work out. Look into what your gym offers or consider switching. The following activities from the Physical Activity Guidelines are examples of how kids can get and stay active. Type of Physical Activity Preschool-Aged Children School-Aged Children Adolescents Moderate-intensity aerobic Games such as tag or follow the leader Brisk walking Brisk walking Playing on a playground Bike riding Bike riding Tricycle or bicycle riding Active recreation, such as hiking, riding a scooter, swimming Active recreation, such as kayaking, hiking, swimming Walking, running, skipping, jumping, dancing Playing games that require catching and throwing (like baseball/softball) Playing games that require catching and throwing (like baseball/softball) Swimming House and yard work Playing games that require catching, throwing, and kicking Video games that require continuous movement Gymnastics or tumbling Vigorous-intensity aerobic Games such as tag or follow the leader Running Running Playing on a playground Bike riding Bike riding Tricycle or bicycle riding Active games involving running and chasing, like tag/flag football Active games involving running and chasing, like tag/flag football Walking, running, skipping, jumping, dancing Jumping rope Jumping rope Swimming Cross-country skiing Cross-country skiing Playing games that require catching, throwing, and kicking Sports (soccer, basketball, swimming tennis) Sports (soccer, basketball, swimming tennis) Gymnastics or tumbling Martial arts Martial arts Dancing Dancing Muscle strengthening Games such as tug of war Games such as tug of war Games such as tug of war Climbing on playground equipment Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands Resistance exercises using body weight, resistance bands, weight machines, hand-held weights Gymnastics Rope or tree climbing Some forms of yoga Climbing on playground equipment Some forms of yoga Bone Strengthening Hopping, skipping, jumping Hopping, skipping, jumping Jumping rope Jumping rope Jumping rope Running Running Running Sports that involve jumping or rapid change in direction Gymnastics Sports that involve jumping or rapid change in direction Try out activities you and your kids can enjoy together, letting everyone get their physical activity for the day. Kids need physical activity as much as Adults and Older Adults. The benefits for kids are in line with the benefits for adults, but getting them involved with physical activities early sets them up to live healthier lives as adults. Children and Adolescent Health Benefits from the Physical Activity Guidelines Decreased risk of developing chronic diseases as adults (heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression Improved cardiorespiratory fitness, stronger muscles, and stronger bones Improvements in: attention cognitive functions of memory executive function processing speed academic performance If you have older relatives living with you, they can still find ways to join in on the family physical activity. While walking is one of the easiest, low-risk ways for older adults to get in some physical activity, the Guidelines have a few more examples: Moderate-Intensity Activities Muscle Strengthening Activities Walking or hiking Dancing Swimming Water aerobics Jogging/running Some forms of yoga Bike riding (stationary or outdoors Some yard work (raking/mowing with a push mower Sports (tennis/basketball) Golf Strengthening exercises using exercise bands, weight machines, or hand-held weights Body-weight exercises Gardening (digging, lifting, and carrying) Some yoga postures Some forms of tai chi Most of the health benefits for Adults and Older Adults are the same, but there are some specific to Older Adults. It's never too late to get into the habit of completing some type of physical activity in a day. Older Adult Health Benefits from the Physical Activity Guidelines Easier to perform daily living activities: eating bathing toileting dressing getting into or out of bed moving around the house/neighborhood Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression Less likely to fall and also less likely to be seriously injured in the event of a fall Improved physical function Helps prevent/manage chronic illness The Guidelines have some information on “Being Active in the Presence of Health Challenges” as an older adult on page 76. Even in the face of physical challenges, we can still find ways to be active. Today's Takeaways The workday isn’t always flexible or forgiving with time, but small changes add up to big differences. Take the time to build in some physical activity to your day and make it fun for the family. The activity itself may not last long, but the health benefits are long term. And of course, always consult with your doctor on what physical activities work best for you, especially when it comes to each activity's length and intensity. Read the Physical Activity Guidelines in their entirety. Read more about the Adult Physical Activity Map . The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is “a system of health-system related telephone surveys that collect state data” that completes more than 400,000 adult interviews each year. Read more about BRFSS, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System .