Fitness, or exercise, is a key consideration for maintaining good health. Along with healthy eating, it's one of the most important things a person can do to keep a healthy weight and prevent a number of chronic health problems. In addition, people of all ages and all ability levels can benefit from increased fitness levels. Even those with limited mobility can find ways to incorporate more fitness into their daily lives.
Research indicates that regular exercise can prevent a variety of chronic health conditions in the long term. This list includes diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, colon cancer, breast cancer and depression. Regular exercise also helps to keep weight down, increases bone density, improves sleep patterns and provides a variety of other health benefits.
The recommendations for fitness vary somewhat based on a person’s age and ability levels. For example, children and adolescents should strive for 60 minutes or more of activity each day. Most of this should be moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, but children should also include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.
Adults should strive for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. For even greater benefits, 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise are recommended. Adults should also include muscle-building exercises at least two days a week.
These recommendations may change somewhat as an adult grows older or has limiting chronic conditions or disabilities. However, even adults in these situations should do their best to incorporate fitness into their lives in a safe manner. Even low-intensity activities like chair exercises, walking and swimming have a number of benefits. People with physical limitations should consult with a health care provider about a safe level of exercise to pursue each day.
SOURCES: U.S. Office on Women's Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services