Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health. The benefits of physical activity occur in generally healthy people, in people at risk of developing chronic diseases, and in people with current chronic conditions or disabilities. Studies have examined the role of physical activity in many groups—men and women, children, teens, adults, older adults, people with disabilities, and women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. These studies have focused on the role that physical activity plays in many health outcomes, including:
- Premature (early) death;
- Diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression;
- Risk factors for disease, such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol;
- Physical fitness, such as aerobic capacity, and muscle strength and endurance
- Functional capacity (the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living);
- Mental health, such as depression and cognitive function;
- Injuries or sudden heart attacks.
There have also been additional studies by the Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Advisory Committee rated the evidence of health benefits of physical activity as strong, moderate, or weak. To do so, the Committee considered the type, number, and quality of studies available, as well as consistency of findings across studies that addressed each outcome.
The Committee also considered evidence for causality and dose response in assigning the strength-of-evidence rating.