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Physical Activity:
Putting Play Back In Your Life

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You probably called it "play" or "fun" when you were a kid.

Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Getting in shape may be a challenge, but it pays off with more energy, more fun, and better health. For ideas and events that will help you be more active, visit the website of our "Get Up and Do Something" campaign.

Young man diving into swimming pool.

Find a type of physical activity that’s fun for you. Exercise is something you need to do for the rest of your life, so it’s essential to find activities you really enjoy. Try walking, swimming, bicycling, skiing, skating, dancing, tennis, volleyball, or any activity that sounds enjoyable to you.

Even if or when you’re not "exercising," try to be more active. Do housework, gardening, hobbies or projects. Climb stairs instead of using elevators. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. Only watch television if there is a program you really want to watch—and be more active (work on a hobby or exercise) while you’re watching the show. Try to limit TV watching to a few hours a day.

Start gradually. Begin with what’s comfortable, even if it’s only five minutes. Add two minutes a week until you work up to a desirable level. Don’t exercise to the point of pain. If you feel any chest or heart pains, check with your doctor before resuming exercise.

Physical Activity Recommendations

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviewed research on physical activity and published Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. A summary of those guidelines is provided by age group:

Male and female runners

  • Children and adolescents should do 1 hour or more of physical activity every day. Most of the time should be either moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. They should do muscle- and bone-strengthening activity at least 3 days a week.
  • Adults, age 18-64, should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity a week. This aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 20 minutes each, preferable spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits are provided by increasing time up to 5 hours a week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all the major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week. For weight loss, longer duration sessions are essential — 30 to 60 minutes a day at least five days a week.
  • Older adults should follow the adult guidelines to the extent that their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity.
  • Adults with disabilities should also follow the adult guidelines to the extent possible. If this is not possible, they should be as physically active as their abilities allow. Children with disabilities should work with their health care providers to identify the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them.
  • Pregnant and postpartum women should get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. This activity should be spread out throughout the week. Women who regularly engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity can continue into pregnancy provided their condition does not change and they talk to their health care provider about their activity level throughout their pregnancies.

A PDF of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans  can be read or downloaded here.

Download PDF of a four-page fact sheet about the guidelines from CDC.

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