Warning: Use of undefined constant name - assumed 'name' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /webroot/f/o/foodpyra/foodpyramid.com/www/wp-content/themes/FoodPyramid/functions.php on line 16
What is Physical Activity and how much is needed?
Home » MyPlate » Physical Activity

Physical Activity

MyPlate – Physical Activity

You do “Physical Activity” whenever you move your body! For health benefits, you should do at least 30 minutes a day of moderate or vigorous physical activity. Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly.

What is Physical Activity?

Understanding the notion of physical activity is not difficult as physical activity simply means motion (movement) of the body that utilizes energy. Physical activity can be walking, dancing, playing softball, climbing stairs or pushing a stroller at a brisk pace. For health benefits, physical activity should be done in moderation and if you have engaged in regular physical activity for a while, it can be done more vigorously.

Moderate physical activities can include:

  • Doubles tennis
  • Canoeing
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Gardening, trimming shrubs, and raking
  • Bicycling less than 10 miles an hour



Vigorous activities can include:

  • Singles tennis
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming freestyle laps
  • Competitive basketball
  • Running or jogging 5 miles an hour
  • Walking fast such as a 4 and ½ minute mile

Select moderate or vigorous physical acticity or a combination of the two every week. The difference between moderate and vigorous physical activity is the intensity you find yourself breathing and how much faster your heart beats as a result. Take it easy. If you have not been physically active in a while, start with moderate exercise 2 to 3 times per week. Once your body gets acclimated, than you can increase the amount and intensity of the activities you choose to participate in.

Why is Physical Activity important?

There are long-term effects that can be generated from physical activity. The more you engage in physical activity the greater the health benefit.

Physical activity can build and maintain bones, muscles and joints. It enhances flexibility and posture. You will also gain a healthy body weight. Being physical active increases the amount of calories burned. Our metabolism slows with age, therefore it’s important to move more and eat less as we get older.

By being physically active you gain many health benefits. You become more relaxed and happier with an overall feeling of well-being. Physical activity lowers your risks for developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Your blood pressure will also improve by being physical active.

Physical activity can help you in the following ways:

  • Stay at or get to a healthy weight
  • Have stronger bones and muscles
  • Increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Decreased chances of succumbing to depression
  • Enjoy yourself and have great fun

Choose physical activities that are best suited for your health and needs:

  • Aerobic for Heart and Lung: Brisk walking, jogging and swimming are examples of activities that improve your heart and lung fitness are.
  • Strength building for Bones and Muscles: Walking, carrying a child, lifting weights are examples of activities that improve, build and maintain your bones and muscles by working them against gravity.
  • Balance and stretching for Flexibility: Dancing, yoga, tai chi, martial arts and gentle stretching are examples of activities that enhance your flexibility and stability. These activities also reduce the risk of injuries.

How much is needed?

How much physical activity is needed is dependent on age and gender. USDA’s Choose MyPlate recommends that for children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 do 60 minutes or more every day. The majority of the 60 minutes should be either vigorous or moderate intensity aerobic activity at least 3 days a week.

Adults should engage in physical activity at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week divided between moderate and physical levels. When adults are active 5 or more hours a week there are greater health benefits. It is also recommended that adults engage in strengthening activities including weight lifting, sit-ups and push-ups.

How many calories are used?

The best way to explain how calories are used is by example. A man that is 5 feet 10 and 154 pounds will use up 370 calories in an hour if he hikes, and 590 calories if running 5 miles per hour. More calories are used in vigorous physical activities such as fast running and bicycling, compared to moderate physical activities such as walking or golfing. Also, remember that those who weigh more will use more calories, than those who weigh less.

Tips for increasing Physical Activity

The USDA for increasing physical activity offers several tips. One way to do so is by making physical activity a regular part of your daily activity. This is easily accomplished when you select activities you really enjoy. More ways to increase physical activity include joining a walking group in your neighborhood or finding a partner to walk with. Walk the dog, wash the car or clean the house. While at work, get off the subway or bus and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Many companies offer fitness programs, so feel free to join and take full advantage of physical opportunities at work.


USDA’s MyPlate