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Exercise and Physical Activity Ideas

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

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.

Finding the right activity

Experts say to do regular moderate activity and/or vigorous-intensity activity.

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.1

Moderate intensity

Vigorous intensity

General exercise:

  • Brisk walking
  • 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

General exercise:

  • Walking uphill, jogging or running
  • Heavy calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.)
  • High impact aerobic dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Using a stair-climber or skiing machine
  • Stationary bicycling, with vigorous effort

Water exercises:

  • Treading water with moderate effort
  • Water aerobics or water calisthenics
  • Kayaking, canoeing, white-water rafting
  • Springboard or platform diving
  • Paddle boating

Water exercises:

  • Swimming laps with fast, vigorous effort
  • Treading water with fast, vigorous effort
  • Water jogging
  • Rowing a canoe in competition
  • Skin diving and scuba diving

Outdoor activities:

  • Fishing and hunting
  • Playing with a Frisbee
  • Children's games, like hopscotch, 4-square, and dodge ball
  • Playing on playground equipment
  • Downhill skiing
  • Shoveling snow

Outdoor activities:

  • Horseback riding—trotting or galloping
  • Competitive sports like rugby, field hockey, and soccer
  • Hiking with a backpack
  • Mountain biking
  • Ice skating quickly (more than 9 mph)
  • Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

House and yard 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 yard 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.

Activity at the office

If your job includes lots of sitting, try adding these short bursts of activity to your day:

Coaching and teaching

If you are bored with a sport or activity that you once enjoyed, coaching or giving instruction can renew your interest.

Competition

Competition can be a good motivator because:

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

Cross-training is the combination of various activities to spread the work among various muscle groups. Cross-training has some important advantages:

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.


References

Citations

  1. 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.

Credits for Exercise and Physical Activity Ideas

Current as of: September 10, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Heather Chambliss PhD - Exercise Science


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