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11.2: Health Benefits Associated with Regular Physical Activity

  • Page ID
  • Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Health Benefits Associated with Regular Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents
    Strong Evidence Moderate Evidence
    • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
    • Improved bone health
    • Improved cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers
    • Favorable body composition
    • Reduced symptoms of depression
    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Health Benefits Associated with Regular Physical Activity in Adults and Older Adults
    Strong Evidence Moderate to Strong Evidence Moderate Evidence
    • Lower risk of early death
    • Lower risk of coronary heart disease
    • Lower risk of stroke
    • Lower risk of high blood pressure
    • Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
    • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
    • Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
    • Lower risk of colon cancer
    • Lower risk of breast cancer
    • Prevention of weight gain
    • Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
    • Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
    • Prevention of falls
    • Reduced depression
    • Better cognitive function (for older adults)
    • Better functional health (for older adults)
    • Reduced abdominal obesity
    • Lower risk of hip fracture
    • Lower risk of lung cancer
    • Lower risk of endometrial cancer
    • Weight maintenance after weight loss
    • Increased bone density
    • Improved sleep quality

    These studies have also prompted questions as to what type and how much physical activity is needed for various health benefits. That led to the development of The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which gives guidance on the amount of physical activity that will provide health benefits for all Americans. Although some health benefits seem to begin with as little as 60 minutes (1 hour) a week, research shows that a total amount of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, consistently reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes. For more details on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans please see the table below:

    Table \(\PageIndex{3}\)For Important Health Benefits Adults Need at Least

    2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity every week (i.e., brisk walking) every week


    1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week;


    An equivalent mix of moderate-and-vigorous intensity aerobic activity


    Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)

    Although the Guidelines focus on the health benefits of physical activity, these benefits are not the only reason why people are active. Physical activity gives people a chance to have fun, be with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, improve their personal appearance, and improve their fitness so that they can participate in more intensive physical activity or sporting events. Some people are active because they feel it gives them certain health benefits (such as feeling more energetic) that aren’t yet conclusively proven for the general population. The Guidelines encourage people to be physically active for any and all reasons that are meaningful for them. Nothing in the Guidelines is intended to mean that health benefits are the only reason to do physical activity.