The following definitions can be used to guide types of exercise and corresponding intensity levels:
- Aerobic: physical activity in which the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time
- Examples: brisk walking, running/jogging, swimming, bicycling
- Muscle-Strengthening: physical activity that increases skeletal muscle strength, power, endurance, and mass
- Examples: lifting weights, using resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, carrying heavy loads, heavy gardening
- Bone-Strengthening (also called “weight-bearing”): physical activity that produces an impact or tension force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength
- Examples: running, jumping rope, lifting weights
- *note: bone strengthening activities can also be aerobic and muscle-strengthening
- Moderate-Intensity: 5 or 6 (on a scale of 0 to 10); a person can talk, but not sing, during the activity
- Vigorous- Intensity: begins at a 7 or 8 (on a scale of 0-10); a person cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath
Finding enjoyable ways to incorporate exercise into daily activities can be helpful in meeting the national guidelines. However, even individuals who fail to meet the specified levels of physical activity experience health benefits simply by replacing sedentary behaviors with light-intensity physical activity. The main takeaway is that the body and brain crave movement, but no single exercise prescription is essential.
Lifestyle medicine practitioners can integrate information about a patient’s health history to determine a fitness plan that is best-suited for each person. By making simple and realistic recommendations, practitioners can support individuals in maintaining sustainable exercise habits and optimize health for people of all backgrounds and ability levels.