Physical Activity

Importance and benefits of physical activity

Why should one bother to be physically active? While your daily food choices can robustly affect health, the combination of healthy food choices and regular physical activity is more powerful still. Regular physical activity can help improve your overall quality of life, reduce your risk for several diseases and give you at least some of these benefits:

  • Increased endurance, muscle strength and flexibility thus decreased back pain
  • Reduced risks of certain cancers, including colon and breast cancer
  • Greater bone density and lessened risk of adult bone loss later in life known as osteoporosis
  • Improved resistance to infectious diseases and faster wound healing
  • Improved lipid profile and blood flow thus decreased risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hypertension
  • Reduced body fat, increased lean tissue consequently stronger self-image
  • Improved sleeping patterns
  • Reduced menstrual symptoms, anxiety and symptoms of depression
  • Enhanced mental and cognitive functioning
  • Longer and higher quality of life

Types of physical activities

Before you start exercising, you need to be aware that there is a wide variety of physical activities that you can engage in and that each type benefits your body in different ways depending on its intensity and duration.

  • Aerobic Activity (also called Endurance):Aerobic activity benefits your heart and lungs. During this type of physical activity you will breathe harder and your heart will beat faster. Planning a regular endurance activity will help your heart and lungs work better and become stronger. Examples include: running, swimming, jogging, biking, dancing, playing basketball, etc.
  • Muscle-Strengthening Activity: Muscle-strengthening activities improve the power and endurance of all your muscles and strengthen your bones.Examples include: resistance exercises such as pushups, pull ups, sit ups and weight lifting or working with resistance band
  • Stretching (also called flexibility exercise) 
Stretching helps improve your flexibility, stretch your muscles, protects your joints and can help your body stay limber.Examples include: Touching your toes, doing side stretches, and yoga

Intensity of physical activity

Physical activities vary in terms of their intensity; an aerobic exercise can be moderately intense or vigorously intense. The term "intensity" refers to the degree of effort required to perform a given endurance activity.

  • Moderate-intensity aerobic activity: Moderate-intensity aerobic activity causes a slight increase in breathing and heart rate. You should also be perspiring after about 10 minutes of activity. However, you are able to talk but not sing during the activity. Examples include: brisk walking, leisure cycling, water aerobics, bicycling slowly, tennis (doubles), ballroom dancing, general gardening
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity: Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity causes your heart rate to increase significantly and you will develop a sweat after few minutes of activity. Your breathing will be deep, hard and rapid. You will find it difficult to hold a conversation with someone without pausing for breath.Examples include: race-walking, jogging, running, swimming laps, tennis (singles), aerobic dancing, bicycling, jumping rope, heavy gardening and hiking

Recommendations and guidelines

The recommendations for healthy adults to maintain health and reduce risk for chronic disease are as follow:
At least 30 min/day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days/week for a total of 150 minutes
 At least 25 min/day of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes
 A combination of the two + 8-10 strength-training exercises with 8-12 repetitions of each exercise twice/week 

References: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA)

Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. You just need to keep it interesting by trying something different on alternate days.

Every bit counts, and doing something is better than doing nothing!

At home

  • Join a walking group in the neighbourhood or at the local shopping mall
  • Push the baby in a stroller
  • Do stretches or pedal a stationary bike while watching television
  • Walk or bike to a nearby store instead of driving
  • Play with the kids – ride a bike or go to the playground

At work

  • Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk
  • Join a nearby gym or exercise programme
  • Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Physical Activity

Benefits of physical activity

Why should one bother to be physically active?

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Sedentary Life

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At work …

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Types and intensity

Before you start exercising, choose the type and intensity of activity that suits you more.

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Recommendations and guidelines

How often should I exercise to maintain a good health?

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What to wear during exercise

Select the appropriate clothes during workouts to stay comfortable and cool.

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Increase in muscle size

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Muscle Soreness

Learn more how to decrease muscle soreness after a workout.

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Sweating during a workout

What does it mean to sweat during a workout?

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Protein Supplements

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