Why Should People Be Active?

What to know

  • Regular physical activity benefits health.
  • Activity-friendly places benefit communities.
  • Too few Americans get the recommended amount of physical activity.
Multiracial adults with young child outside


Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health. However, too few Americans get the recommended amount of physical activity. Currently, in the U.S.:

  • Only about 1 in 4 adults fully meet physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Only 1 in 6 high school students fully meet these guidelines.

Physical activity recommendations‎

The recommendations for different age groups can be found in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. If you are unable to meet the recommendations, be as active as you can.

Immediate and long-term benefits

Regular physical activity has many health benefits.

For adults

Immediate benefits

A single session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity:

  • Improves sleep quality.
  • Reduces feelings of anxiety.
  • Reduces blood pressure.

Long-term benefits

Regular physical activity:

  • Reduces risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
  • Reduces risk of depression.
  • Lowers risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Lowers risk of eight cancers.
  • Reduces risk of weight gain.
  • Improves bone health.
  • Reduces risk of falls.

Emerging research suggests physical activity may also help boost immune function.

For children

Regular physical activity is important for children's growth and development because it:

  • Improves attention and memory.
  • Reduces risk of depression.
  • Builds strong muscles and endurance.
  • Improves blood pressure and aerobic fitness.
  • Helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.
  • Reduces risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
  • Strengthens bones.
  • Helps regulate body weight and reduce body fat.

Saving lives and money

Icon with dollars
Inadequate physical activity is associated with higher health care costs.
  • In the United States, inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 premature deaths.
  • About 110,000 deaths could be prevented annually if U.S. adults increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by even 10 minutes per day.
  • Inadequate levels of physical activity are associated with $117 billion in annual health care costs.

National security and military readiness

  • Both obesity and low levels of physical fitness increase the risk for injury among active duty military personnel.
  • In 2018, 71% of US young people were ineligible to join the military.
  • Only 2 in 5 young adults are both weight-eligible and active enough for military duty.
Keep Reading: Unfit to Serve

Community benefits

Icon: person walking under trees
Designing communities to provide access to safe spaces helps increase physical activity.

For communities, activity-friendly places can:

  • Improve safety for people who walk, ride bicycles, and drive.
  • Help improve the local economy.
  • Increase employment opportunities.
  • Support neighborhood revitalization.

Did you know?‎

Well-designed communities give people more options to get to the places they need to go through active transportation. Active transportation includes walking, biking, wheelchair rolling, or using public transit.


Physical Activity Basics How physical activity can improve overall health for everyone.

Adding Physical Activity to Your Life Ways to increase your physical activity.

Move Your Way Fun, safe ways to get active!

Adult Physical Inactivity Prevalence Maps by Race/Ethnicity State prevalence of physical inactivity and differences by race and ethnicity.

DNPAO Data, Trends and Maps Interactive database with national and state data about the health status, behaviors, and environmental or policy supports.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition Amounts and types of physical activity needed to maintain or improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.