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National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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Be Physically Active

Routine physical activity can improve your health. Physical activity has immediate health benefits, such as lowering both anxiety and blood pressure and improving quality of sleep.  Some physical activity is better than none and can help manage health conditions.

 

What's Important to Know?

All adults should avoid inactivity by moving more and sitting less. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, colon cancer and breast cancer. It may also help you feel like you have more energy, stamina and endurance. Be active for any and all reasons that are meaningful to you!

Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and its health benefits far outweigh the risks. Even if you are out of shape, or have not been active in a long time, you can still be active safely. Unless you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, or you have active symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, dizziness or joint pain, you do not need to talk to your health care team before starting activity. If you have a concern about a health condition, talk with your health care team about the types and amounts of activity that are best for you.

Physical activity is anything that gets the body moving. It can be of moderate intensity, meaning that you can talk while being active, or it can be of vigorous intensity, meaning that you cannot say more than a few words without taking a breath. Choose activities that you enjoy and start at a comfortable level. Once the activity begins to seem easy, add a little more activity each time. You can also try doing it more often.

Couple walking together to get active

For important health benefits, do at least 2½ hours each week of moderate-intensity or 1¼ hours each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equal combination of both. Episodes of activity can last any amount of time. You should be active as often as possible during the day and week.

Do muscle strengthening activities at least twice each week and try to use all the major muscle groups in your body—the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. Stretching is also important and can improve flexibility, joint motion and circulation. It may also relieve stress.

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Want to Know More?

If you want to learn more about how to be physically active, talk with your VA health care team. They can also help if you have questions about making a healthy living change. If you would like more information about ways to be physically active and to improve your health, see the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

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