Physical Activity

Physical activity is any movement of the body that works the muscles and requires more energy than resting. While we often associate physical activity with star athletes or personal trainers, it is important to remember that physical activity is for everyone. No matter what age or level of fitness, there are easy, low-cost ways to move and strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles. Physical activity also provides a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, meet new people, explore a neighborhood, and try out a new hobby. ​

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity every week to improve overall health, fitness, and quality of life. According to the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, only 52 percent of Maryland adults engage in 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.​​​

Categories of Physical Activity 

Aerobic activities make the heart beat more rapidly and increase breathing rate. Aerobic physical activities can range in intensity based on how much they increase heart and breathing rates. The greatest health benefits come from moderate and vigorous aerobic activity.

  • Light intensity- A person doing light intensity activity is up and moving around, but their heart and breathing rates haven’t increased very much. Examples: leisurely walking, light household chores
  • Moderate intensity- A person doing moderate intensity activity will have an increased heart rate and will begin to break a sweat. Their breathing has quickened and they can talk but are unable to sing. Examples: brisk walking, water aerobics, mowing the lawn
  • Vigorous intensity- When doing vigorous intensity activity, a person’s heart and lungs are working hard. They can only say a few words without stopping to breathe. Examples: jogging, hiking uphill, shoveling snow
Balance activities can help strengthen the lower body and prevent falls. Examples: Tai Chi, yoga, walking heel-to-toe 

Flexibility activities help the joints move through a full range of motion. Examples: Yoga, ballet, stretching 

Muscle-strengthening activities work the major muscle groups of the body—the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Strengthening these muscles can improve balance and make it easier to do everyday tasks. Examples: lifting weights, carrying heavy groceries, using a resistance band 

Physical Activity Recommendations​​​​

All age groups can participate in some form of physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

The CDC recommends:
  • Preschool aged children 3-5 years should be physically active throughout the day.
  • Children and adolescents 6-17 years should be moderately-to-vigorously active (raising their heart and breathing rate) at least 60 minutes every day.
  • Adults should be moderately-to-vigorously active at least 150 minutes every week and should do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week.

Health Benefits of Physical Activity 

Being physically active can improve your physical and mental health today and reduce your risk for poor health in the future. Physical activity:​​
  1. Improves physical health by helping you maintain a healthy weight and lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels; 
  2. Decreases your future risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and many cancers (e.g., breast, kidney, colon, lung);
  3. Promotes overall health by improving mood, strengthening brain function, and reducing pain; and
  4. Improves daily life by making it easier to do everyday tasks and keep up with loved ones.


Physical Activity Resource​​s