The Importance of Physical Activity

Regular aerobic exercise lowers risk for disease, improves sleep, memory, cognition and your sense of well-being. At a minimum, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [pdf] recommends that adults ages 18-64 get between 150 minutes to 300 minutes (2.5-5 hours) of moderate aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes to 150 minutes (1.25 to 2.5 hours) of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

150 Minute Weekly Aerobic Target

225 Minute Weekly Aerobic Target

300 Minute Weekly Aerobic Target

2 days per week

75 minutes

3 days per week

50 minutes

75 minutes

4 days per week

~40 minutes

~60 minutes

75 minutes

5 days per week

30 minutes

45 minutes

60 minutes

6 days per week

25 minutes

~ 40 minutes

50 minutes

7 days per week

~22 minutes

~32 minutes

~45 minutes

Any activity that increases your heart rate qualifies! One way to tell if an activity is moderate is if you can talk while performing it but cannot sing while performing it. An exercise is vigorous if you find it difficult to talk while performing it. Guidelines also recommend a muscle strengthening activity (anything that works your muscles harder than normal) for each muscle group on two or more days every week.

Right now, you may be thinking to yourself, “that sounds like a lot of time—so how do I fit this in?” There is more than one way to reach this quota. Ideally, spreading it out throughout your week is best because you are not stressing your body and your mind trying to fit it all in. The table below shows estimated time needed for the minimum, mid-range, and maximum recommended amounts of aerobic activity. Keep in mind, you don’t have to get your movement minutes in all at once. If your goal is 30 minutes a day, you could meet this in two 15-minute sessions. If this still seems overwhelming, just do what you can. Walking to classes, taking the stairs, dancing with friends, or playing a pick-up game of basketball all count. Any movement you are able to fit in is good for you.

There are many resources to help you increase your physical activity. You can download fitness apps on your phone or personal device, research activities you can do in your residence hall or bedroom, or check out online tools like the Move Your Way Activity Planner to explore various activities and develop a fitness plan.

Physical activity is more fun with friends, too. Find someone from a class or your residence hall (if you live on campus) to be a fitness buddy. Be sure to also check out your campus recreation center or athletics department to learn about fitness facilities and offerings. Varsity athletics, intramural sports, and club sports are great ways to connect with other students, feel like part of a team, and get moving. Some campuses may also have fitness clubs and fitness classes for students, and student discounts at fitness studios or gyms in the surrounding community may be available.