Physical activity is vital to maintaining good health. Getting your heart pumping strengthens the heart muscle and improves your lung function, reducing your risk of heart disease and other obesity-related conditions. However, you must get enough physical activity to reap the benefits. How much exercise is enough for you depends upon your age and individual health status.
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Recommendations for Kids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that those ages 6 to 17 get at least one hour of physical activity per day. This can come from a variety of sources, including school recess, taking a walk after dinner, playing a sport or taking a dance class. While moderate physical activity is beneficial for kids, your child also should engage in vigorous physical activity at least three days a week. Vigorous physical activity involves working to the point where your child is slightly out of breath but can still carry on a conversation. Other exercises that should be a part of your child’s week includes muscle-boosting activities like pushups, situps, calf raises or triceps dips. These exercises help to strengthen your child’s muscles and growing bones.
Recommendations for Adults
Those between the ages of 18 and 64 can choose at what intensity level they exercise, which can determine how much they should exercise each week. One option the CDC recommends is to engage in two and a half hours of moderate exercise plus two strength-training sessions per week. If you prefer more vigorous exercise or are short on time, get at least one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise and engage in muscle-building activities twice weekly. An example of moderate exercise is swimming at a brisk pace; running is a vigorous exercise. You do not have to perform this in 30-minute or one-hour time blocks. Instead, you can spend 15 minutes in the morning, afternoon and night incorporating exercise into your routine.
Recommendations for Older Adults
If you are 65 or older and have no complicating health conditions that could affect your ability to exercise, the CDC recommends engaging in at least two and a half hours of moderate activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. While these are the same recommendations as adults ages 18 to 64, the CDC defines vigorous physical activity a little differently for older adults. Activities like jogging can be considered vigorous for older adults and moderate exercise can include gardening or mowing the lawn. Don’t forget to incorporate strength training -- you should do at least two sessions per week to experience benefits.
The CDC’s recommendations are for those without complicating health conditions. For example, pregnant women should continue to exercise, but might not be able to engage in vigorous exercise toward the end of their pregnancies. Another example is heart patients, who may need to adjust the intensity and duration of exercise based on their unique health conditions. If you are uncertain about how individual recommendations affect you, consult your physician.