Error processing SSI file

Benefits of Physical Activity

Key points

  • Physical activity has many immediate and long-term benefits.
  • Physical activity helps you immediately feel better, function better, and sleep better.
  • Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity gain some health benefits.
Family walking in nature

Immediate benefits

By age‎

Graphics show the health benefits for children, adults, and adults 65 and older in one page.

Some benefits of physical activity for brain health happen right after a session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Benefits include improved thinking or cognition for children 6 to 13 and reduced short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.

Father inside a gym playing basketball with two children.
Some brain benefits of physical activity happen immediately.

Manage your weight

Both eating patterns and physical activity routines play critical roles in weight management. You can gain weight when you consume more calories than the amount of calories you burn.

To maintain your weight

If you are not physically active, work your way up to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. This could be dancing or doing yard work. You could meet the goal of 150 minutes a week with 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, 22 minutes daily, or what works for you.

People vary greatly in how much physical activity they need for weight management. You may need to be more active than others to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

To lose weight and keep it off

You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your eating patterns and reduce the amount of calories you're eating and drinking. Healthy eating combined with regular physical activity help you get to—and stay at—a healthy weight.

More information

Reduce your health risks

Cardiovascular disease

Heart disease and stroke are two leading causes of death in the United States. Getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity can put you at a lower risk for these diseases. You can reduce your risk even further with more physical activity. Regular physical activity can also lower blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.

Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome

Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar. With a regular schedule of moderate-intensity physical activity, people start to benefit from even less than 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Additional amounts of physical activity could lower risk even more.

Infectious diseases

Physical activity may help reduce the risk of serious outcomes from infectious diseases, including COVID-19, the flu, and pneumonia. For example:

  • People who do little or no physical activity are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 than those who are physically active. In a CDC review, physical activity was associated with a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, while inactivity increases that risk.
  • More active people may be less likely to die from flu or pneumonia. In one study, adults who met the aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity guidelines were about half as likely to die from flu and pneumonia than adults who met neither guideline.

Some cancers

Being physically active lowers your risk for developing several common cancers. If you are a cancer survivor, getting regular physical activity helps give you a better quality of life and improves your physical fitness.

Eight types of cancer‎

Being physically active lowers your risk for developing at least eight types of cancer.

Strengthen your bones and muscles

As you age, it's important to protect your bones, joints, and muscles. This can help ensure you're able to do daily activities and be physically active.

Lifting weights is an example of a muscle-strengthening activity. Muscle strengthening is important for older adults who experience reduced muscle mass and muscle strength with aging. Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions as part of muscle-strengthening activities will give you even more benefits, no matter your age.

Two women walking up stairs and carrying hand weights
Muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain muscle mass and strength.

Perform daily activities and prevent falls

Everyday activities include climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or cleaning the house. Being unable to perform everyday activities is called functional limitation. Physically active middle-aged or older adults have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive.

For older adults, doing a variety of physical activities improves physical function and decreases the risk of falls or injury from a fall. Older adults need to include aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance activities in their physical activity routines. This multicomponent physical activity can be done at home or in a community setting as part of a structured program.

Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can result from a fall. Breaking a hip can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you're an older adult. Physically active people have a lower risk of hip fracture than inactive people.

Afraid of getting hurt?‎

The good news is that moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most people.

Increase your chances of living longer

An estimated 110,000 deaths per year could be prevented if U.S. adults ages 40 and older increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Even 10 minutes more a day would make a difference.

Taking more steps a day also helps lower the risk of premature death from all causes. In one study, for adults younger than 60, the risk of premature death leveled off at about 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. For adults 60 and older, the risk of premature death leveled off at about 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day.

Older couple playing frisbee
Regular physical activity can help manage existing chronic conditions.

Manage chronic health conditions & disabilities

Regular physical activity can help people manage existing chronic conditions and disabilities. For example, regular physical activity can:

Also see:

How much physical activity do I need?

See physical activity recommendations for:

Active People, Healthy Nation. Creating an Active America, Together.

Want additional tips and resources to be active?
Learn about Active People, Healthy NationSM, CDC’s national initiative to help people be more physically active.