Do We Get Enough Exercise From Our Daily Activitie?

Most Americans get little vigorous exercise at work or during leisure hours. Today, only a few jobs require vigorous physical activity. People usually ride in cars or buses and watch TV during their free time rather than do something active. Activities like golfing and bowling provide people with some benefit but they do not provide the same benefits as regular, more vigorous exercise.

Evidence suggests that even low to moderate intensity activities can have both short and long-term benefits. If done daily, they help lower your risk of heart disease. Such activities include pleasure walking, stair climbing, gardening, yardwork, moderate to heavy housework, dancing and home exercise. More vigorous exercise can help improve fitness of the heart and lungs, which can provide even more consistent benefits for lowering heart disease risk.

Today, many people are rediscovering the benefits of regular, vigorous exercise... activities like swimming, brisk walking, running, or jumping rope. These kinds of activities are sometimes called "aerobic," meaning the body uses oxygen to produce the energy needed for the activity. Aerobic exercises can condition your heart and lungs if performed at the proper intensity for at least 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week.

But you don't have to train like a marathon runner to become more physically fit! Any activity that gets you moving around, even if it's done for just a few minutes each day is better than none at all. For inactive people, the trick is to get started. One great way is to take a walk for 10-15 minutes during your lunch break.

These are the benefits often experienced by people who get regular physical activity.

Feeling Better:

  • gives you more energy
  • helps in coping with stress
  • improves your self-image
  • increases resistance to fatigue
  • helps counter anxiety and depression
  • helps you to relax and feel less tense
  • improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
  • provides an easy way to share an activity with friends or family and an opportunity to meet new friends

Looking Better:

  • tones your muscles
  • burns off calories to help lose extra pounds or helps you stay at your desirable weight
  • helps control your appetite

You need to burn off 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. If you want to lose weight, regular physical activity can help you in either of two ways.

First, you can eat your usual amount of calories, but be more active. For example: A 200-pound person who keeps on eating the same amount of calories, but decides to walk briskly each day for 1 1/2 miles will lose about 14 pounds in 1 year. Or second, you can eat fewer calories and be more active. This is an even better way to lose weight.

About three-fourths of the energy you burn every day comes from what your body uses for its basic needs, such as sleeping, breathing, digesting food and reclining. A person burns up only a small amount of calories with daily activities such as sitting. Any physical activity in addition to what you normally do will burn up extra calories.

The average calories spent per hour by a 150-pound person are listed below. (A lighter person burns fewer calories; a heavier person burns more.) Since exact calorie figures are not available for most activities, the figures below are averaged from several sources and show the relative vigor of the activities.

ActivityCalories Burned per Hour
Bicycling 6 mph240
Bicycling 12 mph410
Cross-country skiing700
Jogging 5 1/2 mph740
Jogging 7 mph920
Jumping rope750
Running in place650
Running 10 mph1280
Swimming 25 yds/min275
Swimming 50 yds/min500
Tennis-singles400
Walking 2 mph240
Walking 3 mph320
Walking 41/2 mph440

The calories spent in a particular activity vary in proportion to one's body weight. For example, a 1 00-pound person burns 1/3 fewer calories, so you would multiply the number of calories by 0.7. For a 200-pound person, multiply by 1.3.

Working harder or faster for a given activity will only slightly increase the calories spent. A better way to burn up more calories is to increase the time spent on your activity.

Working Better:

  • helps you to be more productive at work
  • increases your capacity for physical work
  • builds stamina for other physical activities
  • increases muscle strength
  • helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently

Consider the benefits of a well-conditioned heart: In 1 minute with 45 to 50 beats, the heart of a well-conditioned person pumps the same amount of blood as an inactive person's heart pumps in 70 to 75 beats. Compared to the well-conditioned heart, the average heart pumps up to 36,000 more times per day, 13 million more times per year.


This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.