Fitness: Getting and Staying Active
What is fitness?
Fitness means being able to perform physical activity. It also means having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible. Getting more fit, even a little bit, can improve your health.
You don't have to be an athlete to be fit. Athletes reach a very high level of fitness. And people who take brisk half-hour walks every day reach a good level of fitness. Even people who can't do that much can work toward some level of fitness that helps them feel better and have more energy.
This topic focuses on health-related fitness, which helps you feel your best and lowers your risk for certain diseases. Making small changes in your daily lifestyle helps you improve your fitness.
What are the benefits of fitness?
Fitness helps you feel better and have more energy for work and leisure time. You'll feel more able to do things like playing with your kids, gardening, dancing, or biking. Children and teens who are fit may have more energy and better focus at school.
When you stay active and fit, you burn more calories, even when you're at rest. Being fit lets you do more physical activity. And it lets you exercise harder without as much work. It can also help you manage your weight.
Improving your fitness is good for your heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints. And it lowers your risk for falls, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. If you already have one or more of these problems, getting more fit may help you control other health problems and make you feel better.
Being more fit also can help you to sleep better, handle stress better, and keep your mind sharp.
How much physical activity do you need for health-related fitness?
Experts say your goal should be one, or a combination, of these:
Children need more activity. Encourage your child (ages 6 to 17) to do moderate to vigorous activity at least 1 hour every day.
One way to know how hard you should exercise is to find your target heart rate. Being active within the range of your target heart rate not only helps you keep your heart and lungs healthy but also helps you get or stay fit. As a guideline, use the Interactive Tool: What Is Your Target Heart Rate?. Learn to take your pulse.
Here's another way you can tell if an activity or exercise is making you work hard enough to count as moderate activity. If you can't talk while you do it, you're working too hard. You're at the right level if you can talk but not sing during the activity.
What types of physical activity improve fitness?
The activities you choose depend on which kind of fitness you want to improve. There are three different kinds of fitness:
How can you be more physically active?
Moderate physical activity is safe for most people. But it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before becoming more active, especially if you haven't been very active or have health problems.
If you're ready to add more physical activity to your life, here are some tips to get you started:
Frequently Asked Questions
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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