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How to be Active for Health

how to be active for health

Regular physical activity (exercise) can help lower your risk for many diseases that affect women, including heart disease and stroke. Exercise can also help relieve symptoms of some conditions, such as depression, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Women need to do different types of physical activities to reach or stay at a health weight and build strength and endurance.


Getting regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. Regular physical activity can help:

  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Lower your risk of dying early
  • Help you lose weight (if you combine if with cutting calories) or keep your weight where it is as you get older
  • Improve depression
  • Improve sleep
  • Lower your risk of diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

Physical activity can help with your health when you get older. Regular physical activity helps:

  • Keep bones strong
  • Prevent hip fracture (breaking your hips)
  • Decrease pain from arthritis
  • Prevent dementia
  • Maintain the independence to do basic everyday activities, like getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and eating

Researchers know that the more physical activity you do, the more your health benefits. The more time you spend being active each week, the lower your risk is for dying early.

The Physical Activity Guidelines suggests that each week, women get at least:

  • Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. You know you are doing a moderate-intensity activity when your heart is beating faster but you can still carry on a conversation. Try a brisk, 30-minute walk five times a week.


  • One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. You know you are doing a vigorous-intensity physical activity when you are breathing hard and it is difficult to have a conversation. This could be a 40-minute jog or step class twice a week.


  • A combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.


  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more day.

You should aim for these amounts, but any physical activity is better than no physical activity. Try to spread your activity out over the week so that you are active on at least three days. You need to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time to get health benefits.

Physical activity should be in addition to the normal activities of daily living, such as cleaning, walking from the parking lot, or taking public transportation.

Maybe. People who are underweight due to an eating disorder should not exercise unless their doctor tells them to. Your doctor or nurse can help you develop an exercise plan that is healthy and safe for a person of your current weight.

Women who are overweight or have obesity should talk to their doctor or nurse about any concerns they have about beginning an exercise program. For most people, any amount or type of physical activity will help your overall health. Physical activity can also improve muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about a plan that is right for you based on your fitness level.

Yes. Start slowly if you haven't been physically active before or if it has been a while. Talk to your doctor or nurse about exercise if you have a health condition.

Everyone is different. How quickly you burn calories when you are physically active can be very different from other people, based on your specific genes, biology, and past. While scientists know that there are 3,500 calories in a pound, burning 500 extra calories every day (or 3,500 calories in a week) does not always result in losing exactly one pound. This is also true if you eat 500 fewer calories every day for a week, for a total of 3,500 fewer calories in one week.

Find a personalized healthy eating plan using the MyPlate Plan tool. The best way to lose weight is to combine healthy eating with exercise.

Everyone is different. Physical activity is important to help you maintain your weight, but the amount of physical activity you need to stay the same weight depends on your specific genes, biology, past, and age.

Some women can maintain their weight by doing five hours or less of moderate-intensity activity a week. Some women may need to do more than five hours of moderate-intensity activity a week to stay at the same weight.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about how much physical activity you need and how to do it safely.

As you age, and especially in the years after menopause, you may find it harder to maintain your weight. You may need to increase the amount of physical activity you get and lower how many calories you eat to stay the same weight.

You should do two types of physical activities on a regular basis, aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Aerobic Activities

Aerobic activities (also called "cardio") make you breathe harder and you heart beat faster. During aerobic activities, such as running or dancing, you move your whole body, or a combination of arms and legs, over and over again.

Muscle-Strengthening Activities

Muscle-strengthening activities include working out with weight machines, free weights, or exercise bands. You also can do exercises that use your own body weight to create resistance, such as yoga, sit-ups, or push-ups.

The muscle you build helps you have the strength to do daily activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries.

During strength training, you should do different exercises to work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). You should try to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. Allow one day in between sessions to avoid too much stress on your muscles and joints.

Many women do not do any type of muscle-strengthening exercise because they are afraid of becoming too muscular. But women's bodies are different from men's bodies. Women naturally have more body fat and less muscle. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder or athlete, it is very unlikely that you would become more muscular or bulky than you would from strength training.

Strength training or weightlifting is very healthy for most women.

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