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

The health benefits of tai chi

Tai chi is gentle and not strenuous, but it has been shown to have a positive effect on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance, and it can be practiced by people in nearly any state of health or physical condition. More »

Yoga for anxiety and depression

A growing number of studies indicate that yoga may be a beneficial treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. More »

Cold fingers, cold toes? Could be Raynaud's

In Raynaud's phenomenon, even a slight decrease in temperature can cause a pronounced loss of blood flow to the hands. It can often be treated by protecting against exposure to cold, avoiding medications that constrict blood vessels, and exercising. More »

A Web-based way of tracking your physical activity level

If you want to keep tabs on your activity level and how many calories you're burning without buying a gadget, check out this government Web site: www.choosemyplate.gov It's run by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Why is the USDA in the exercise business? Because the department promulgates nutrition guidelines, and good nutrition necessarily involves energy balance, which means making sure that the amount of calories you're taking in should match the number you're burning — and be less if you are trying to lose weight. So although you can't eat physical activity, it's part of the USDA food pyramid. (Locked) More »

Aerobic Fitness Test: The Step Method

To help assess your aerobic fitness, here is a minimum standard: See if you can walk up five flights of stairs at your own pace without stopping, using the railing only for balance. The test may seem too simple to be useful, but in the days before sophisticated exercise tests were widely available, thoracic surgeons used this very test to see if their patients were fit enough to undergo lung operations. In modern terms, people who pass the five-flight test have maximum oxygen uptake values of at least 20. That level will get you through surgery and daily life, but healthy people should use exercise to build up to levels two or even three times higher. It is unlikely that a health club would ask you to use the stairwell for self-assessment, but it might well use a single 12-inch step or bench to evaluate your fitness. With just a little help, you can do it yourself. Ask someone to time you and count for you so you can concentrate on the task at hand (or foot!). At the signal to begin, step up with your right foot, then bring your left foot up beside it. Follow the "up, up" with "down, down" to complete one step. Repeat at a rate of 24 steps per minute for three consecutive minutes. Then rest in a chair for exactly one minute before taking your pulse. Finally, use the YMCA standards (see table below) to see how you stack up. The step test can be quite demanding; if you have been diagnosed with heart disease, if you suspect you may have heart disease, or if you have major risk factors, ask your doctor about a formal stress test instead of taking the step test. And if you are out of shape or think the test may be hard for you, take a one-minute pretest to see how you fare. More »