How much exercise do you really need? A smaller amount of physical activity than you might think helps a woman to stay healthy. To improve overall health, you need to have some type of physical activity for 30 minutes most days of the week. This does not have to be an activity for 30 minutes in a row. You can be active for 10 minutes at a time, three times a day. If your goal is to lose weight, you might have to increase your activity more. It is best to talk with your health care provider before your start an exercise program or if you want to lose weight.

There are many benefits of regular physical activity on a woman's health. These include a lower risk of heart disease and obesity, healthy bones, muscles and joints, more lean muscle, and lower body fat. Physical activity reduces the risk of diabetes and colon cancer, and helps some women with high blood pressure to lower their blood pressure. Physical activity can help to improve your mood and confidence. It can also reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

With all this good news, women who are not active regularly or at all need to get moving! For the forty percent of women who do engage in some type of regular physical activity, you are keeping your heart and body in good shape - keep up the good work!

What are some types of physical activity that you can do? It does not need to be strenuous or hard to have cardiovascular (heart, blood vessel, circulation) benefits. Activities such as walking, gardening, climbing stairs, bicycling, swimming, and jogging can improve a woman's overall health. For beginners, 5 to10 minutes of activity a few times a week is a good starting point. You can then work up to the recommended physical activity level for your age and fitness level. The National Women's Health Information Center has provided the following resources to help women learn more about why physical activity is important, and to encourage women to set their own fitness goals.

Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging
This 80-page illustrated booklet provides healthy older people with scientifically accurate recommendations about exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions - Exercise
This publication contains information on the benefits of exercise, why it is important, when to check with your healthcare provider, and how exercise can help people of all ages.

Physical Activity and Weight Control
This publication contains information on the relationship between regular exercise and good health. It also includes tips to start a safe and successful physical activity program.

The President's Challenge - You're it. Get fit!
The President's Challenge is a program designed to help you get fit. No matter what your fitness level, the President's Challenge can help you improve it. This site offers guidelines and interactive tools for Americans of all ages to help improve fitness. Learn how to create an active lifestyle. Keep a log of your physical activity. And use on-line fitness calculators to determine your progress.

Walking...A Step in the Right Direction
This publication contains information about how to start your own walking and exercise program.

Exercise and a Healthy Heart (Copyright © AHA)
This publication contains information about how physical activity is important, how it can help improve the condition of your body, information on low-impact exercises, and when you should consult your healthcare provider.

Exercise: How to Get Started (Copyright © AAFP)
This fact sheet discusses why you should exercise, who should exercise, and how to get started.

Mind Your Muscles: Weight Training: More than a Hard Body (Copyright © Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
This publication contains information on weight training, the benefits, and different exercises that you can do to stay in shape and be healthy.

Physical Activity in Your Daily Life (Copyright © AHA)
Choose from this list of fact sheets for answers to any questions you may have about physical fitness and yours and your family's health. Some scientific statements on research results are included also.

President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, OPHS, OS, HHS

American Council on Exercise

American Running Association

National Association for Sport and Physical Education

Women's Sports Foundation