Benefits of Activity

Being active includes all types of body movement, even the types we do every day without thinking. Being physically active is one of the most important things people of all ages can do to improve their health.

Being active has many benefits for health, including:

• improved self-esteem
• weight management
• strong bones, muscles and joints
• lower risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes
• increased energy
• improved sleep
• enhanced flexibility and posture

Types of Activity

There are three general types of physical activity. These include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and flexibility.

Aerobic activity includes activities like jogging, brisk walking, riding a bike, and swimming. These activities increase breathing and heart rate, which leads to improved heart and lung fitness. Aerobic activities like walking, jogging, or playing soccer also strengthen bones because of the impact with the ground.

Muscle-strengthening activities include things like lifting weights, using a resistance band, or weight-bearing activities such as push-ups, squats or yoga. Carrying a child is also a muscle-strengthening activity. This type of activity helps to build and maintain strong bones and muscles.

Flexibility activities are done to enhance the ability of a joint to move through the full range of motion and allow people to more easily do activities that require greater flexibility. Therefore, flexibility activities are an appropriate part of a physical activity program. However, their health benefits are unknown and it is unclear whether or not they reduce risk of injury. Time doing flexibility activities by themselves does not count toward meeting the aerobic or muscle-strengthening guidelines.

Amount of Activity

Physical activity recommendations are based on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the activity.

The intensity of the activity describes how hard the activity is for someone to do. For health benefits, aerobic physical activity should be moderate or vigorous. The ‘talk test’ can be used to determine if an activity is moderate or vigorous. During moderate intensity activities, someone should be able to talk but not be able to sing. During vigorous activities, someone will only be able to say a few words without pausing to catch his or her breath. Intensity of an activity will vary from person to person. What is vigorous for one person may be moderate for another person.

The frequency of an activity tells how often the activity is done. For example, walking 3 times a week.

The duration of an activity describes how long the activity is done at one time, such as walking for 30 minutes.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend the following amounts of activity for adults and children/teenagers.


Aerobic physical activity

  • 150 minutes a week of moderate, aerobic physical activity or
  • 75 minutes a week of vigorous, aerobic physical activity or
  • A combination of moderate and vigorous activity
  • Aerobic physical activity should be spread throughout the week. For example, someone could do 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic physical activity 5 days of the week.

Muscle-strengthening physical activity

  • 2 days per week in addition to aerobic physical activity
  • There is no specific time (duration) recommendations for muscle-strengthening activity but activities should be done that make your muscles work harder than usual.
  • Activities should work all major muscle groups including the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.

Overall, adults should avoid being inactive and should be active whenever possible. Even 1 hour of physical activity per week is beneficial.

Every minute counts! Even if you are short on time or are new to exercise, moving for just a minute or two still counts.  It all adds up!

Children and Teenagers

Regular physical activity can help children and teens reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, youth who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, and classroom behaviors.

  • Children ages 3-5 years
    • Should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
  • Children and teens ages 6-17
    • 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day
      • Moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or running, should make up most of the 60 or more minutes.
      • The 60 minutes can be split up over the day. It all adds up!

It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, are enjoyable and that offer variety. Children do not need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. Younger children usually strengthen their muscles and bones when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym, or climb trees. Teenagers may start a structured weight program as part of training for a sport, such as football or basketball.


Watch the audio description version of Tips for Getting Active as a Family on YouTube.

Safety Tips

It is important to consider safety when being active. Simple steps can drastically reduce the risk of injury or accidents.

  • Increase the amount and intensity of activity gradually over time.
  • Wear suitable clothing for the weather, including sunscreen and protective clothing outdoors. A cloudy sky does not mean you are protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Wear protective equipment such as helmets, knee and elbow pads, or shin guards. Be sure that shoes, bicycles, and other equipment are in proper working condition.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after being active as well as throughout the day. Sports drinks should only be used when exercising vigorously for longer than 60 minutes; otherwise drink water.
  • Listen to your body. Stop being active if you experience fatigue, discomfort, or pain. Injuries and accidents are more likely to occur if you ignore your body’s signals.
  • Consult a health care provider before starting a moderate or vigorous intensity exercise program if you are a man over 40 or woman over 50 who has been inactive. If someone has a chronic condition or symptoms such as cheek, neck, or jaw pain when active or other pain concerns, they should also talk with their health care provider.


Workout and Stretching Videos

30 Days of Movement Calendar 

Walk Your Way to Fitness

Be Active 


University of Nebraska Extension Workouts

ACE Exercise Library

Exercise and Physical Activity for Health Aging