A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will reduce blood pressure,
improve insulin sensitivity, improve sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve
cognition on the day that it is performed. Most of these improvements become even
larger with the regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Other
benefits, such as disease risk reduction and physical function, accrue within days
to weeks after adopting a new physical activity routine.
The benefits of physical activity can be achieved in a variety of ways.
The target range of physical activity suggested in the 2008 Scientific Report was
150 to 300 minutes (500 to 1,000 MET-minutes) per week of moderate-intensity
physical activity. METs are metabolic equivalents, one MET is the amount of oxygen
consumed and calories burned at rest. The 2018 Scientific Committee endorsed
the validity of this target range. Since 2008, more science documents the value of
reducing inactivity even if the 150 to 300 minutes a week target of moderate-intensity
physical activity is not achieved.
A summary of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific
Report major findings about physical activity targets and schedules is:
• For individuals who perform no or little moderate-to-vigorous physical
activity, replacing sedentary behavior with light-intensity physical activity
reduces the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease incidence and
mortality, and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
• For individuals whose amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is
below the current public health target range of 150 to 300 minutes a week of
moderate-intensity physical activity, even small increases in moderateintensity
physical activity provide health benefits. There is no threshold that
must be exceeded before benefits begin to occur.
• For individuals below the target range, substantial reductions in risk are
available with relatively small increases in moderate-intensity physical
• Individuals already within the physical activity target range can gain more
benefits by doing more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
• Bouts, or episodes, of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity of any duration,
may be included in the daily accumulated total volume of physical activity.
• Some physical activity is better than none.
• For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical
activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer
• Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderateintensity
physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur
with more physical activity.
• Both aerobic (e.g., walking, running, swimming, cross-country skiing,
bicycling) and muscle-strengthening physical activity is beneficial.
• Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged
adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
• The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.
• The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse
New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds, at the end of 2014, summed up research
on the benefits of physical activity as follows: “In various experiments, physical
activity was found to lessen and even reverse the effects of aging on human skin;
protect against age-related vision loss; improve creativity; lower people’s risk of
developing heart disease even if they had multiple risk factors for the condition;
increase the numbers of good bacteria in athletes’ guts; raise exercisers’ pain tolerance;
and alter, in desirable ways, how our DNA works.”
There are favorable benefits from physical activity that relate not just to health but
also to our personal goals and sense of wellbeing. They include maintenance of a
desirable weight, getting and keeping an attractive athletic body appearance and a
body composition with a greater lean mass, higher levels of energy and endurance,
and the psychological benefits of a good mood and higher self-esteem. High levels
of physical activity help us to look better, feel better, and function better.
A word of warning: If these descriptions of the positive benefits of physical activity
have inspired you to start or intensify an exercise routine, please read the cautions
in this chapter about getting started. Especially if you are over the age of 30,
or have any health condition, or are taking medication, make sure that you have
a checkup and clearance from your medical care provider and remember that to
avoid injuries and other problems, it is important to warm up, increase the amount
of physical activity slowly, and cool down.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.