Monthly Health Message:

Be Active Your Way: Physical Activity for Adults

June 2009

Karen Ensle EdD., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family and Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Physical activity is important for everyone including mature adults. Pick an activity that's easy to fit into your lifestyle and do it at least 10 minutes at one time.

  • Aerobic activities will strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system.  Walking briskly, dancing, or biking make your heart beat faster and your lungs and blood vessels stronger. 
  • Strengthening exercises are also necessary to keep your arms, legs, and internal muscles strong to support your body.  They are a fun way to be with your family or friends and help improve your health.

How many times a week should you be physically active?  It's up to you, but it is best to be active at least 3 days a week.   Vary the types of activities you choose to do as they all work different muscle groups.  Your muscles should feel worked but not sore.  Then, you can trade activities at a moderate level for vigorous ones that take more effort, in the same week.  Alternating activities is smart, and the healthy way to exercise. 

Below are examples of moderate and vigorous activities. Do these for 10 minutes or more at a time.

Moderate Activities: (I can talk while I do them, but I can't sing.)

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous Activities: (I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath.)

  • Aerobic dance
  • Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Fast dancing
  • Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as karate)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
  • Swimming fast or swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

Below are some guidelines for aerobic and strengthening activities:

Type of ActivityFrequencyRecommendation
Aerobic Activities

If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.

  • Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities. The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain. Aim for twice the amount of activity in the box at left.
  • Do at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • You can combine moderate and vigorous activities.

Muscle Strengthening Activities

Do these at least 2 days a week.

  • Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
  • Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.


By alternating between aerobic and strengthening activities you are taking "small steps" to improve your health. And remember, any physical activity is better than none!

For more information, visit www.health.gov/paguidelines/factSheetAdults.aspx  and www.healthfinder.gov and type "activity" in the search box.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences