Exercise & Fitness

Exercising regularly, every day if possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your health. In the short term, exercise helps to control appetite, boost mood, and improve sleep. In the long term, it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, and many cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following:

For adults of all ages

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise like running (or an equivalent mix of both) every week.  It’s fine to break up exercise into smaller sessions as long as each one lasts at least 10 minutes.
  • Strength-training that works all major muscle groups—legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms—at least two days a week.  Strength training may involve lifting weights, using resistance bands, or exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, in which your body weight furnishes the resistance.

For pregnant women

The guidelines for aerobic exercise are considered safe for most pregnant women. The CDC makes no recommendation for strength training. It’s a good idea to review your exercise plan with your doctor.

For children

At least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, most of which should be devoted to aerobic exercise. Children should do vigorous exercise and strength training, such as push-ups or gymnastics, on at least three days every week.

Exercise & Fitness Articles

Bellows breath

"Intermediate Yoga," a special health report from Harvard Medical School, includes a Strengthening Practice routine with multiple exercises that help develop both mental and physical strength. Among them is "bellows breath." To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy   More »

Breath of joy

The Energizing Practice routine described in "Intermediate Yoga"—a Harvard Medical School special report—involves vigorous breathing to bring more oxygen to your body and brain. The result: physical and mental energy. Breath of joy is among the featured exercises. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy   More »

Half sun salutation

"Half sun salutation" is among the Basic Practice exercises described in "Intermediate Yoga," a special health report from Harvard Medical School. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

Lion's breath

"Lion's breath," because of its starting position, is also called "five-pointed star into goddess with lion's breath." It's among the Energizing Practice routines in "Intermediate Yoga," a special health report from Harvard Medical School. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

Sun breath

Among the Flexibility Practice exercises in "Intermediate Yoga," a special health report from Harvard Medical School, is sun breath. The Flexibility Practice routine will help you gain more supple muscles and greater range of motion through various joints. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

Ujjayi breath

This example of a Calming Practice yoga exercise can be done any time of day. If you're anxious or worked up over a stressful situation, the ujjayi breath exercise can center and relax you. It's among dozens of exercises featured in "Intermediate Yoga," a special health report from Harvard Health Publishing. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

Alternate nostril breath

Harvard Medical School's "Intermediate Yoga" health report offers one routine known as Balance Practice. Among the exercises described is "alternate-nostril breath." This deep breathing exercise takes just a minute, but it helps balance both mind and body. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

Full sun salutation

The basic practice yoga exercises in "Intermediate Yoga"—a special health report from Harvard Medical School—includes sun salutation. Within this three-minute routine, you'll assume multiple positions, including lunge, plank, child's pose, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog, and forward fold. To learn additional intermediate yoga exercises, visit: www.health.harvard.edu/iy More »

A plan for flexibility

As people age, flexibility enables them to active, perform everyday movements, and avoid injuries. Still, most would admit they lack flexibility and that they don’t give it the necessary attention. Flexibility is something that most older people can improve with some effort and commitment. A simple set of three stretches, done regularly, can improve flexibility in the common problem areas of the backs of the thighs, the hips, and the chest. (Locked) More »

Tai chi or yoga? 4 important differences

Tai chi and yoga are gentle exercises that share a long list of benefits, such as pain reduction and improved balance, flexibility, strength, mobility, mood, quality of life, range of motion, reflexes, and thinking skills. But the exercises have subtle differences. For example, tai chi consists mostly of flowing movements, while yoga has mostly static poses. And tai chi is typically performed while standing; yoga may be performed while standing, lying down, sitting on the floor, or kneeling on all fours. Choosing one over the other often comes down to personal preference and practical considerations. (Locked) More »