Being physically active can benefit your physical and mental health in many ways. For example, it can strengthen your muscles and bones, lower your risk of chronic health conditions, and improve your mood and sleep. Physical activity can be safe for almost everyone. If you have concerns about your health or becoming more active, speak with your health care provider or a qualified exercise professional.
For information on the role of physical activity on overall health and taking steps to change your physical activity level, visit the general health and helping you make it happen sections of our website. If you would like guidance on physical activity or exercise, call our qualified exercise professionals by dialing 8-1-1 and asking to speak with Physical Activity Services between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Pacific Time Monday to Friday. You can also leave a message outside of these hours and email a qualified exercise professional.
Aerobic activity raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a while. This increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your heart and muscles. Over time, this kind of activity benefits your heart, your muscles, your mood and self-esteem, and your amount of energy. It can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat, anxiety and depression, and fatigue.
Here are some ideas for both types of activities. You can boost many of the moderate activities in the left column to a vigorous level by doing them faster or harder.footnote 1
Light to moderate calisthenics (for example, home exercises, back exercises, getting up and down from the floor)
Low-impact aerobic dancing
Jogging on a small trampoline
Weight lifting, body building, using a lot of effort
Light to moderate workouts on gym equipment like Nautilus or Universal machines or a rowing machine
Walking uphill, jogging or running
Heavy calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.)
High impact aerobic dancing
Using a stair-climber or skiing machine
Stationary bicycling, with vigorous effort
Treading water with moderate effort
Water aerobics or water calisthenics
Kayaking, canoeing, white-water rafting
Springboard or platform diving
Swimming laps with fast, vigorous effort
Treading water with fast, vigorous effort
Rowing a canoe in competition
Skin diving and scuba diving
Fishing and hunting
Playing with a Frisbee
Children's games, like hopscotch, 4-square, and dodge ball
Playing on playground equipment
Horseback riding—trotting or galloping
Competitive sports like rugby, field hockey, and soccer
Hiking with a backpack
Ice skating quickly (more than 15 kph)
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
House and garden work:
Sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors
Washing the car with vigorous effort
Sweeping the garage, sidewalk, or patio
Washing the dog
Mowing or raking the lawn
Digging in the garden
House and garden work:
Carrying groceries upstairs
Carrying boxes or furniture
Baling hay or cleaning the barn with vigorous effort
Adding variety to a fitness program is a good way to keep motivated.
Vary the activity. If you are getting bored with walking, try swimming or an aerobics class.
Vary the place. Try a new route for walking or biking or even a different room for your exercises or stretching. By having several options, you can pick one that suits your mood or schedule.
Vary the time. Do your exercises at different times and for different amounts of time. If you become bored with your noon walk, try exercising in the early morning or after work or school. Instead of doing one 45-minute session, do three 15-minute sessions.
Activity at the office
If your job includes lots of sitting, try adding these short bursts of activity to your day:
Use your commute to do some extra walking. Park several blocks away, or get off the bus a few stops early.
Use the stairs instead of the elevator, at least for a few floors.
Suggest holding meetings with colleagues during a walk inside or outside the building.
Go the extra distance when possible: Get your coffee on another floor (use the stairs) or use the washroom that's the farthest from your office.
If you need to speak to a co-worker, walk to that person's office or station rather than using e-mail or the phone.
Use your morning and afternoon breaks to take quick 15-minute walks.
Coaching and teaching
If you are bored with a sport or activity that you once enjoyed, coaching or giving instruction can renew your interest.
Youth leagues for organized sports are often seeking good coaches.
Take classes to become a certified fitness leader.
If you cycle, offer to lead a group of schoolchildren on a bike ride to teach bicycle safety.
Offer to lead a walking group.
Competition can be a good motivator because:
It gives you a specific and measurable goal to work toward, such as walking or running a 5 km or 10 km race.
Learning the details of a new course or event and then preparing for it can restore the excitement and challenge that's gone from more familiar competitions.
Helping to plan or organize a competitive event instead of entering it can provide friendship and fun with others interested in the same activity.
Cross-training is the combination of various activities to spread the work among various muscle groups. Cross-training has some important advantages:
It prevents boredom by providing variety. It can help you break out of a slump.
It helps you maintain balance among your various muscle groups. For instance, runners who have developed powerful leg muscles might cross-train to strengthen the upper body, which does not get a good workout from running.
It reduces the risk of injuries because the same muscles are not being stressed in the same way during every workout.
Some exercise machines, such as elliptical cross-trainers, can help you cross-train. Or you can use exercise machines that give variety to your program by working muscle groups that aren't heavily used in your primary activity.
Ainsworth BE, et al. (2011). Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide. Columbia, SC: Prevention Research Center, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. Available online: http://prevention.sph.sc.edu/tools/compendium.htm.
Current as of:
May 12, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine Heather Chambliss PhD - Exercise Science
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Heather Chambliss PhD - Exercise Science
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
If you have questions about physical activity or exercise, call 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and heard of hearing) toll-free in B.C. Our qualified exercise professionals are available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Pacific Time. You can also leave a message after hours.
Translation services are available in more than 130 languages.
HealthLinkBC’s qualified exercise professionals can also answer your questions by email.
If you have any questions about healthy eating, food, or nutrition, call 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing) toll-free in B.C. You can speak to a health service navigator who can connect you with one of our registered dietitians, who are available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. You can also leave a message after hours.
Translations services are available in more than 130 languages.
HealthLinkBC Dietitians can also answer your questions by email.