The Health Benefits of Physical Activity

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The Health Benefits of Physical Activity—Major Research Findings

  • Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.
  • Some physical activity is better than none.
  • For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.
  • Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.
  • Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
  • Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
  • The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.
  • The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.

The Beneficial Effects of Increasing Physical Activity: It’s About Overload, Progression,
and Specificity

is the physical stress placed on the body when physical activity is greater in amount or intensity than usual. The body’s structures and functions respond and
adapt to these stresses. For example, aerobic physical activity places a stress on the cardiorespiratory system and muscles, requiring the lungs to move more air and the heart to pump more blood and deliver it to the working muscles. This increase in demand increases the efficiency and capacity of the lungs, heart, circulatory system, and exercising muscles. In the same way, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities overload muscles and bones, making them stronger.
is closely tied to overload. Once a person reaches a certain fitness level, he or she progresses to higher levels of physical activity by continued overload and adaptation. Small, progressive changes in overload help the body adapt to the additional stresses while minimizing the risk of injury.

means that the benefits of physical activity are specific to the body systems that are doing the work. For example, aerobic physical activity largely benefits the body’s cardiovascular system.