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National Physical Fitness and Sports Month—May 2013

Physical activity plays an important role in our health. Not only does physical activity help control weight, but it can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Physical activity also helps strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that in 2011, only one in five U.S. adults get enough physical activity to gain substantial health benefits.

The Amount of Physical Activity Adults Need

Photo: A couple with bicyclesAdvice to follow from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:


  • Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity that requires moderate effort. You need to do this type of activity for at least 10 minutes.

Muscle Strengthening

  • Adults should also do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
  • Strengthening activities should include all major muscle groups.
  • Strengthening activities include push-ups, sit ups, and lifting weights.

Some ways you may get physical activity include walking, running, gardening, dancing, playing basketball, and resistance exercises. Watch these videos for ways to get started and learn more about the Guidelines.

Video of getting started with physical activity
Video of an introduction to the physical activity guidelines
Video of aerobic activity
Video of muscle strengthening
Video of muscle strengthening in the gym

Ways to Increase Physical Activity in States and Communities

The CDC works with state and local governments, as well as communities, schools, and work sites to increase participation in physical activities. Strategies for increasing physical activity include:

  • Consider walkability and other physical activity in community design.
  • Create or enhance places for physical activity with information and outreach that lets people know where these are.
  • Use communitywide campaigns to provide health education and social support for physical activity.

Highlights from State and Community Programs

Some states have higher rates of adults meeting both aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines, but there is room for improvement in all states. Here are some examples of what states and communities are doing:

Including Walkability in Community Design

New York Department of Health started a plan for Complete Streets [PDF - 244KB] in the state's small towns. Complete Streets are streets that enable safe access for all users - walkers, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages. Since the project began in 2009, Complete Streets have been established in one county and three towns.

Creating or Improving Places for Physical Activity

Las Cruces, New Mexico, became an official Bicycle-Friendly Community after they made improvements, such as changes to make bicycling safer and more accessible. They developed a Share the Road campaign, installed bike racks in all city parks, and improved police patrols for safety. Bicycle lanes increased from 10 miles to 65 miles and there also was a 300% increase bicycle commuters.

A Community Education Campaign

Multnomah County, Oregon, launched A Healthy Active Multnomah County: It Starts Here, a public awareness initiative asking individuals to make small, positive changes to eating and physical activity habits. The community members were able to see messages in television ads and transit, billboard, and shopping mall signs.


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