How Much Should I Be Exercising For My Age?

Physical exercise

By Joy Stephenson-Laws & the pH health care professionals

Physical activity is an important cornerstone for a healthy life. We know it can help with weight management, disease prevention, heart health and better sleep -- at any age!

Research has shown kids who are active may perform better in school. Middle-aged and older adults who exercise may be protecting their brains. Older adults who exercise may perform better on memory tasks and have a lower risk of dementia. There are benefits at every age.

How much should you be exercising and what types of exercise?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides the following recommendations for the amount and type of physical activity needed by age:

Ages 6-17

  • Children and adolescents should do an hour or more of physical activity daily.
  • Aerobic: Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and should be done at least 3 days a week.
  • Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
  • Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
  • It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable and offer variety.

Ages 18-64

  • All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity, or 2 and a half hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
  • Adults should also include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups, two or more days a week.

Ages 65 and older

  • Older adults should follow the adult guidelines. When older adults cannot meet the adult guidelines, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions will allow.
  • Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.
  • Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
  • Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.

Examples of types of exercise

Moderate-intensity physical activity: Aerobic activity that increases a person’s heart rate and breathing to some extent. On a scale relative to a person’s capacity, moderate-intensity activity is usually a 5 or 6 on a 0 to 10 scale. Brisk walking, dancing, swimming or bicycling on a level terrain are examples.

Vigorous-intensity physical activity: Aerobic activity that greatly increases a person’s heart rate and breathing. On a scale relative to a person’s capacity, vigorous-intensity activity is usually a 7 or 8 on a 0 to 10 scale. Jogging, singles tennis, swimming continuous laps or bicycling uphill are examples.

Muscle-strengthening activity: Physical activity, including exercise that increases skeletal muscle strength, power, endurance and mass. It includes strength training, resistance training and muscular strength and endurance exercises.

Bone-strengthening activity: Physical activity that produces an impact or tension force on bones, which promotes bone growth and strength. Running, jumping rope and lifting weights are examples.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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