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Aerobic activity—what counts?
Aerobic activity—or "cardio"—gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to biking to the store – all types of activities count. As long as you're doing them at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Intensity is how hard your body is working during aerobic activity.
How do you know if you're doing light, moderate, or vigorous intensity aerobic activities?
For most people, light daily activities such as shopping, cooking, or doing the laundry doesn't count toward the guidelines. Why? Your body isn't working hard enough to get your heart rate up.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you'll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:
• Walking fast
• Doing water aerobics
• Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
• Playing doubles tennis
• Pushing a lawn mower
Build up over time. If you want to do more vigorous-level activities, slowly replace those that take moderate effort like brisk walking, with more vigorous activities like jogging
Muscle-strengthening activities—what counts?
Besides aerobic activity, you need to do things to strengthen your muscles at least 2 days a week. These activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms).
To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8—12 repetitions per activity that count as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.
You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity, whatever works best. Just keep in mind that muscle-strengthening activities don't count toward your aerobic activity total.
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:
• Lifting weights
• Working with resistance bands
• Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push ups, sit ups)
• Heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling)
What if you have a disability?
If you are an adult with a disability, regular physical activity can provide you with important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs, and muscles, improved mental health, and a better ability to do everyday tasks. It's best to talk with your health care provider before you begin a physical activity routine. Try to get advice from a professional with experience in physical activity and disability. They can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for you and your abilities. If you are looking for additional information, visit The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.