Being active means allowing your body to "practice" breathing,
using your muscles, and stretching. The more practice your body gets, the better it
It's important to be active in three areas: aerobic activity, muscle strength, and stretching.
Aerobic activity makes your heart and lungs work harder and builds up
your endurance. It gets more oxygen to your muscles, which allows
your muscles to work longer. Aerobic activities include walking, running, cycling, and swimming.
To get and stay
healthy, experts say to do either of these:2
You can choose to do one or both types of
activity. And it's fine to be active in several blocks of 10 minutes
or more throughout your day and week. Do what works best for you. For
example, you could do moderate activity for 45 minutes every other day. Or you could do 10 minutes 3 times a day, 5 days a
How hard to
Moderate activity causes your heart and lungs to work harder. Here's an easy way to
know if you're working hard enough to get the health benefits of
- If you can't talk and do your activity at
the same time, you are exercising too hard.
- If you can sing while you do your activity,
you may not be working hard enough.
- If you can talk but can't sing while you do your activity,
you are doing fine.
Another way to see how hard you exercise is
to find your
target heart rate. As a guideline, use the
Interactive Tool: What Is Your Target Heart Rate? and learn to take your pulse .
Building stronger muscles is an important part of overall health. When your muscles are
strong, you can carry heavy grocery bags more easily, pick up children without
feeling as much strain, or do more downhill ski runs before you
get too tired and have to stop.
Making your muscles stronger includes:
- Resistance training. This helps build muscles through regular use, especially when your muscles have to work against something.
- Strengthening your
core. This helps build
the muscles around your belly and back (trunk). This is called
core stability. It can help you have better posture and balance, and help
protect you from injury.
- Fitness: Increasing Core Stability
Experts advise people to do exercises to strengthen muscles at least 2 times a week. Be sure to work the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Examples of exercises that strengthen muscles include lifting weights and resistance training.
Stretching for flexibility
Flexibility means being able to move your
joints and muscles through their full range of motion.
As you become more flexible, you will find it easier to reach
things on high shelves, to look under a bed, or perhaps to tie your shoes. You
will also have a better sense of balance and coordination.
To stay flexible,
stretch all your major groups of muscles. These
include the muscles of your arms, your back,
your hips, the front and back of your
thighs, and your calves.
you get started with flexibility and stretching, begin slowly, and increase your
efforts bit by bit. You can measure your progress with
flexibility by noticing how much farther you can do each stretch. Can you
stretch farther each day than you
could when you started? If so, your flexibility is getting
Do your stretching and
flexibility exercises in addition to your aerobic and strength-building