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Physical Activity


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									                                                            Frequently Asked questions

                                                                       	   •	 Reduce	falls	among	older	adults	
                                                                       	   •	 Reduce	the	risk	of	mental	decline	
                                                                              among	older	adults

                      Activity                                             Physical	activity	can	also	help	you	lose	
                                                                           weight.	If	you	are	overweight	or	obese,	
                                                                           losing	weight	can	lower	your	risk	for	
                                                                           many diseases. Being overweight or
                      Q: How can physical activity                         obese	increases	your	risk	of	heart	dis-
                         improve my health?                                ease,	high	blood	pressure,	stroke,	type	2	
                      A: An active lifestyle can help every                diabetes,	breathing	problems,	osteoar-
  womenshealth.gov                                                         thritis,	gallbladder	disease,	sleep	apnea	
                          woman. Being physically active may:
     1-800-994-9662                                                        (breathing	problems	while	sleeping),	
                      	   •	 Lower	your	risk	of	getting	heart	             and some cancers.
TDD: 1-888-220-5446          disease,	stroke,	high	blood	pres-
                             sure,	breast	and	colon	cancer,	type	          You	can	get	an	idea	of	whether	you	are	
                             2	diabetes	(the	most	common	form	             obese,	overweight,	or	of	normal	weight	
                             of	diabetes),	osteoarthritis	(the	most	       by	figuring	out	your	body	mass	index	
                             common	form	of	arthritis),	and	               (BMI).	BMI	is	a	number	calculated	
                             osteoporosis	(a	disease	that	weakens	         from	your	weight	and	height.	Women	
                             bones)                                        with	a	BMI	of	25	to	29.9	are	consid-
                                                                           ered	overweight.	Women	with	a	BMI	
                      	   •	 Lower	high	blood	pressure	in	people	          of	30	or	more	are	considered	obese.	All	
                             who	already	have	high	blood	pres-             adults	(aged	18	years	or	older)	with	a	
                             sure                                          BMI	of	25	or	higher	are	considered	at	
                      	   •	 Reduce	the	risk	of	a	second	heart	            risk	for	premature	death	and	disability.	
                             attack	in	people	who	have	already	            These	health	risks	increase	as	your	BMI	
                             had	one	heart	attack                          rises.	Your	doctor	or	nurse	can	help	you	
                                                                           figure	out	your	BMI,	or	you	can	use	
                      	   •	 Help	control	joint	pain	and	stiffness	
                                                                           the	online	calculator	at	www.cdc.gov/
                             from arthritis
                      	   •	 Reduce	feelings	of	mild	to	moderate	          Not	only	is	how	much	fat	you	have	
                             anxiety and depression                        important	to	your	health,	but	it	also	
                      	   •	 Improve	your	mood                             matters	where	you	carry	the	fat	on	your	
                      	   •	 Increase	feelings	of	well-being               body.	Women	with	a	“pear”	shape	tend	
                                                                           to	store	fat	in	their	hips	and	buttocks.	
                      	   •	 Help	you	handle	stress	                       Women	with	an	“apple”	shape	tend	to	
                      	   •	 Help	control	your	weight	                     store	fat	around	their	waists.	Women	
                                                                           with	an	“apple”	shape	are	more	likely	
                      	   •	 Help	you	quit	smoking
                                                                           to	develop	health	problems	related	to	
                      	   •	 Increase	your	energy	and	endurance            being	overweight	or	obese	than	women	
                      	   •	 Help	you	sleep	better                         with	a	“pear”	shape.	For	women,	a	
                                                                           waist	size	of	more	35	inches	increases	
                                                                           heart	disease	risk.

             page 1

                               U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
                                                             Frequently Asked questions

                      Q: How much physical activity                            ity,	or	do	22	minutes	per	day	of	
                          should I do?                                         vigorous-intensity	activity.
                      A:	 To	reduce	the	risk	of	serious,	long-          	   •	 To	maintain	a	healthy	weight	after	
                          term	diseases,	adults	should	engage	in	at	           you	have	lost	weight,	aim	to	do	50	
                          least:                                               to	80	minutes	per	day	of	moderate-
                      	   •	 Moderate-intensity	physical	activity	             intensity	activity,	or	do	25	minutes	
                             for	30	minutes	on	5	or	more	days	of	              per	day	of	vigorous-intensity	activ-
                             the	week,	OR                                      ity.
                      	   •	 Vigorous-intensity	physical	activity	          These	guidelines	for	weight	loss	and	
                             for	20	minutes	on	3	or	more	days	of	           weight	maintenance	assume	that	you	
  womenshealth.gov                                                          have	not	changed	the	number	of	calo-
                             the	week
     1-800-994-9662                                                         ries	that	you	eat	each	day.	If	you	eat	
                          This	physical	activity	should	be	in	addi-
TDD: 1-888-220-5446                                                         fewer	calories	each	day,	you	can	lose	
                          tion	to	your	routine	activities	of	daily	
                                                                            weight and maintain a healthy weight
                          living,	such	as	cooking	or	spending	a	
                                                                            with	less	time	spent	being	physically	
                          few	minutes	walking	from	the	parking	
                          lot	to	your	office.
                          During	moderate-intensity	activities	
                          you	should	notice	an	increase	in	your	        Q: Does the type of physical activ-
                          heart	rate,	but	you	should	still	be	able	        ity I choose matter?
                          to	talk	comfortably.	An	example	of	a	         A: Yes! Engaging in different types of
                          moderate-intensity	activity	is	walking	           physical activity is important to overall
                          on	a	level	surface	at	a	brisk	pace	(about	        physical	fitness.	Your	fitness	routine	
                          3	to	4	miles	per	hour).	Other	examples	           should	include:
                          include	ballroom	dancing,	leisurely	          	   •	 Aerobic	activities
                          bicycling,	moderate	housework,	and	
                                                                        	   •	 Strength-training	activities
                          waiting	tables.
                          If	your	heart	rate	increases	a	lot	and	       	   •	 Stretching	activities
                          you	are	breathing	so	hard	that	it	is	dif-         In	aerobic	activities,	you	move	large	
                          ficult	to	carry	on	a	conversation,	you	           muscles	in	your	arms,	legs,	and	hips	
                          are	probably	doing	vigorous-intensity	            over	and	over	again.	Examples	include	
                          activity.	Examples	of	vigorous-intensity	         walking,	jogging,	bicycling,	swimming,	
                          activities	include	jogging,	bicycling	fast	       and tennis.
                          or	uphill,	singles	tennis,	and	pushing	a	         Strength-training	activities	increase	
                          hand mower.                                       the	strength	and	endurance	of	your	
                          To lose weight or to maintain a healthy           muscles.	Examples	of	strength-training	
                          weight	after	losing	weight,	you	will	             activities	include	working	out	with	
                          probably	have	to	be	more	physically	              weight machines, free weights, and
                          active	than	you	would	to	lower	your	              resistance	bands.	(A	resistance	band	
                          risk	of	disease:                                  looks	like	a	giant	rubber	band.	You	
                      	   •	 To	lose	5	percent	or	more	of	your	             can	buy	one	at	a	sporting	goods	store.)	
                             weight,	aim	to	do	45	to	70	minutes	            Push-ups	and	sit-ups	are	examples	of	
                             per day of moderate-intensity activ-           strength-training	activities	you	can	do	
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                               U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
                                                             Frequently Asked questions

                          without	any	equipment.	You	also	can	                  supportive	shoes	for	walking	or	jog-
                          use	soup	cans	to	work	out	your	arms.                  ging.
                          Aim to do strength-training activities         	   •	 Start	every	workout	with	a	warm-
                          twice	a	week.	In	each	strength-training	              up.	For	instance,	if	you	plan	to	walk	
                          session,	you	should	do	8	to	10	dif-                   at	a	brisk	pace,	start	by	walking	at	
                          ferent	activities	using	the	different	                an	easy	pace	for	5	to	10	minutes.	
                          muscle	groups	throughout	your	body,	                  When	you're	done	working	out,	do	
                          such	as	the	muscles	in	your	abdomen,	                 the	same	thing	until	your	heart	rate	
                          chest,	arms,	and	legs.	Repeat	each	                   returns	to	normal.	
                          activity	8	to	12	times,	using	a	weight	        	   •	 Drink	plenty	of	f luids	when	you	are	
  womenshealth.gov        or	resistance	that	will	make	you	feel	                physically	active,	even	if	you	are	not	
     1-800-994-9662       tired.	When	you	do	strength-training	                 thirsty.
                          activities,	slowly	increase	the	amount	of	
TDD: 1-888-220-5446       weight	or	resistance	that	you	use.	Also,	      	   •	 Use	sunscreen	when	you	are	
                          allow	one	day	in	between	sessions	to	                 outside.
                          avoid	excess	strain	on	your	muscles	and	       	   •	 Always	bend	forward	from	the	hips,	
                          joints.                                               not	the	waist.	If	you	keep	your	back	
                          Stretching	activities	improve	f lexibility,	          straight,	you're	probably	bending	
                          allowing more freedom of movement.                    the	right	way.	If	your	back	"humps,"	
                          Moving	more	freely	will	make	it	easier	               that's	probably	wrong.	
                          for	you	to	reach	down	to	tie	your	shoes	       	   •	 Stop	being	active	if	you	feel	very	out	
                          or	look	over	your	shoulder	when	you	                  of	breath,	dizzy,	nauseous,	or	have	
                          back	the	car	out	of	your	driveway.	You	               pain.	If	you	feel	tightness	or	pain	in	
                          should	do	stretching	activities	after	                your	chest,	or	you	feel	faint	or	have	
                          your	muscles	are	warmed	up—for	                       trouble	breathing,	stop	the	activity	
                          example, after strength training.                     right	away	and	talk	to	your	doctor.
                          Stretching	your	muscles	before	they	are	
                          warmed	up	may	cause	injury.                        Exercise	should	not	hurt	or	make	you	
                                                                             feel	really	tired.	You	might	feel	some	
                                                                             soreness,	a	little	discomfort,	or	a	bit	
                      Q: How can I prevent injuries when                     weary.	But	you	should	not	feel	pain.	
                          I work out?                                        In	fact,	in	many	ways,	being	active	will	
                      A:	 Being	physically	active	is	safe	if	you	            probably	make	you	feel	better.
                          take	precautions.	Take	these	steps	to	
                          prevent	injury:
                                                                         Q: I am a larger woman. Can I be
                      	   •	 If	you're	not	active	at	all	or	have	a	          physically active?
                             health	problem,	start	your	program	         A:	 Yes!	You	may	face	special	challenges	in	
                             with	short	sessions	(5	to	10	minutes)	          trying	to	be	physically	active,	but	you	
                             of	physical	activity	and	build	up	to	           can	work	hard	to	overcome	them.	You	
                             your	goal.	(Be	sure	to	ask	a	doctor	            may	not	be	able	to	bend	or	move	in	
                             before	you	start	if	you	have	a	health	          the	same	way	that	other	people	can.	It	
                             problem.)                                       may	be	hard	to	find	clothes	and	equip-
                      	   •	 Use	safety	equipment.	For	example,	             ment	for	physical	activity.	You	also	may	
             page 3          wear	a	helmet	for	bike	riding	or	               feel	self-conscious	being	active	around	

                               U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
                                                             Frequently Asked questions

                          other	people.	But	you	can	get	past	these	          Even	though	you	have	a	disability,	you	
                          hurdles.	Keep	trying	different	ways	to	            should	still	aim	to	meet	the	physical	
                          make	physical	activity	a	part	of	your	life.	       activity	goals	listed	in	How	much	phys-
                          It	is	important	to	your	health!                    ical	activity	should	I	do?	Work	with	
                          Activities	such	as	swimming	or	exer-               a doctor to develop a physical activity
                          cising	while	seated	put	less	stress	on	            plan	that	works	for	you.
                          your	joints	because	your	legs	are	not	
                          supporting	the	weight	of	your	body.	If	        Q: What are some tips to help me
                          your	feet	or	joints	hurt	when	you	stand,	          get moving?
                          nonweight-bearing	activities	may	be	           A:	 Fit	it	into	a	busy	schedule
  womenshealth.gov        best	for	you.	Ask	your	doctor	for	help	
                          in	coming	up	with	a	physical	activity	         	   •	 If	you	can't	set	aside	one	block	of	
     1-800-994-9662                                                             time,	do	short	activities	throughout	
                          plan	that's	right	for	you.
TDD: 1-888-220-5446                                                             the	day,	such	as	three	10-minute	
                          Remember	that	physical	activity	does	                 walks.	
                          not	have	to	be	hard	or	boring	to	be	
                          good	for	you.	Anything	that	gets	you	          	   •	 Create	opportunities	for	activity.	Try	
                          moving	around—even	for	only	a	few	                    parking	your	car	farther	away	from	
                          minutes	a	day—is	a	healthy	start	to	get-              where	you	are	headed.	If	you	ride	
                          ting	more	fit.	Over	time,	you	will	be	                the	bus	or	train,	get	off	one	or	two	
                          able	to	work	out	longer	and	vary	the	                 stops	early	and	walk.
                          types	of	activity	you	can	do.	                 	   •	 Walk	or	bike	to	work	or	to	the	store.	
                          If	you	commit	to	being	physically	active	      	   •	 Use	stairs	instead	of	the	elevator	or	
                          on	a	regular	basis,	your	body	will	thank	             escalator.
                          you	because	it	can	make	a	big	difference	
                          to	your	health.	Even	if	you	do	not	lose	       	   •	 Take	breaks	at	work	to	stretch	or	
                          weight,	you	will	still	lower	your	risk	of	            take	quick	walks,	or	do	something	
                          getting	many	diseases	by	being	physi-                 active	with	coworkers	at	lunch.	
                          cally	active.	And	if	you	do	lose	weight,	      	   •	 Walk	while	you	talk,	if	you're	using	
                          you'll	get	even	more	health	benefits!                 a cell phone or cordless phone.
                                                                         	   •	 Doing	yard	work	or	household	
                      Q: Can I stay active if I have a dis-                     chores	counts	as	physical	activity.	
                          ability?                                              Turn	on	some	upbeat	music	to	help	
                      A:	 A	disability	may	make	it	harder	to	stay	              you	do	chores	faster	and	speed	up	
                          active,	but	it	shouldn't	stop	you.	In	                your	heart	rate.
                          most	cases,	people	with	disabilities	can	          Make it fun
                          improve	their	f lexibility,	mobility,	and	     	   •	 Choose	activities	that	you	enjoy.	
                          coordination	by	becoming	physically	
                          active.	Getting	regular	physical	activity	     	   •	 Vary	your	activities,	so	you	don't	get	
                          can	also	help	you	stay	independent	by	                bored.	For	instance,	use	different	
                          preventing	illnesses,	such	as	heart	dis-              jogging,	walking,	or	biking	paths.	
                          ease,	that	can	make	caring	for	yourself	              Or	bike	one	day,	and	jog	the	next.	
                          more	difficult.	

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                               U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
                                                            Frequently Asked questions

                      	   •	 Reward	yourself	when	you	achieve	                push-ups	or	lift	hand	weights.	If	you	
                             your	weekly	goals.	For	instance,	                don't	have	hand	weights,	you	can	use	
                             reward	yourself	by	going	to	a	movie.             canned	foods	or	bottles	filled	with	
                      	   •	 If	you	have	children,	make	time	to	              water or sand.
                             play	with	them	outside.	Set	a	good	           Don't	expect	to	notice	body	changes	
                             example!                                      right	away.	It	can	take	weeks	or	months	
                      	   •	 Plan	active	vacations	that	will	keep	         before	you	notice	some	of	the	changes	
                             you	moving,	such	as	taking	tours	             from	being	physically	active,	such	as	
                             and site-seeing on foot.                      weight	loss.	And	keep	in	mind,	many	
                                                                           benefits	of	physical	activity	are	hap-
  womenshealth.gov    	   •	 Do	you	enjoy	watching	television?	            pening	inside	you	and	you	cannot	see	
                             Get	up	to	change	the	channel	and	             them.
                             walk	around	during	commercials.
TDD: 1-888-220-5446                                                    Q: Do I need to talk to my doctor
                          Make it social                                    before I start?
                      	   •	 Join	a	hiking	or	running	club.	
                                                                       A:	 You	should	talk	to	your	doctor	before	
                      	   •	 Go	dancing	with	your	partner	or	              you	begin	any	physical	activity	program	
                             friends.                                      if	you:
                      	   •	 Turn	activities	into	social	occa-         	   •	 Have	heart	disease,	had	a	stroke,	or	
                             sions—for	example,	go	to	a	movie	                are	at	high	risk	for	these	diseases	
                             after	you	and	a	friend	work	out.	         	   •	 Have	diabetes	or	are	at	high	risk	for	
                          Overcome challenges                                 diabetes	
                      	   •	 Don't	let	cold	weather	keep	you	on	       	   •	 Are	obese	(BMI	of	30	or	greater)	
                             the	couch.	You	can	find	activities	to	
                                                                       	   •	 Have	an	injury	or	disability
                             do	in	the	winter,	such	as	indoor	fit-
                             ness	classes	or	exercising	to	a	work-     	   •	 Are	older	than	age	50	and	have	not	
                             out	video.	                                      been	active	for	some	time
                      	   •	 If	you	live	in	a	neighborhood	where	      	   •	 Are	pregnant
                             it	is	unsafe	to	be	active	outdoors,	      	   •	 Have	a	bleeding	or	detached	retina,	
                             contact	your	local	recreational	center	          eye	surgery,	or	laser	treatment	on	
                             or	church	to	see	if	they	have	indoor	            your	eye
                             activity	programs	that	you	can	join.	
                             You	can	also	find	ways	to	be	active	      	   •	 Have	had	recent	hip	surgery	n
                             at	home.	For	instance,	you	can	do	

             page 5

                               U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
                                                          Frequently Asked questions

                      For more information
                      For	more	information	on	physical	activity,	call	womenshealth.gov	at	1-800-994-9662
                      or	contact	the	following	organizations:	
                      Division of Nutrition and Physical            The President's Council on Physical
                      Activity, NCCDPHP, CDC                        Fitness and Sports
                      Phone:	(770)	488-6042	                        Phone:	(202)	690-9000
                      Internet	Address:	                            Internet	Address:	http://www.fitness.gov/
  womenshealth.gov                                                  American Council on Exercise
     1-800-994-9662   Food and Nutrition Information                Phone:	(888)	825-3636
                      Center, NAL, USDA                             Internet	Address:	
TDD: 1-888-220-5446
                      Phone:	(301)	504-5414	                        http://www.acefitness.org/	
                      Internet	Address:	
                      http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/	                America On the Move
                                                                    Phone:	(800)	807-0077
                      HealthierUS.gov                               Internet	Address:	
                      Phone:	(301)	565-4167                         http://aom.americaonthemove.org/
                      Internet	Address:	

                      Weight Control Information
                      Network, NIDDK, NIH, HHS
                      Phone:	(877)	946-4627	
                      Internet	Address:	

                        All	material	contained	in	the	FAQs	is	free	of	copyright	restrictions,	and	may	be	copied,	
                        reproduced,	or	duplicated	without	permission	of	the	Office	on	Women's	Health	in	the	
                        Department	of	Health	and	Human	Services.	Citation	of	the	source	is	appreciated.

                        Content	last	updated	July	2008.

             page 6

                             U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health

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