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Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement that makes your body use energy. It’s key for being healthy and getting to a healthy weight. And if you do get pregnant someday, the healthier you are before pregnancy, the more likely you are to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
For example, if you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you’re less likely than women who weigh too little or too much to have serious complications during pregnancy, like high blood pressure or diabetes. You’re also less likely to have a premature baby or have a baby with a birth defect. And your baby is less likely to have his own weight problems later in life.
How do you know if you’re at a healthy weight? Check your body mass index (also called BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight.
How does physical activity affect your health?
Regular physical activity can lower your risk of certain medical conditions, including:
Physical activity also can:
What kinds of physical activity can you try?
You don’t have to join a gym to get good exercise. Try activities that you like or that you can do with your partner or friends.
Activities that get your heart rate going are called aerobic. Here are some aerobic activities to try:
If you want a little more intensity, try these:
Strength-training activities help build muscles by improving their strength and ability. These activities include:
Stretching activities can improve your flexibility and movement. Moving freely makes it easier to reach down and tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when driving your car in reverse. Stretching activities include:
How much physical activity can you do each day?
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all adults get at least 2½ hours each week of moderately intense physical activity. This is about 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days a week.
All adults need strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. Focus on strengthening the muscles in your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders and arms. In each session, do 8 to 10 different activities that work out the different muscle groups in your body. Repeat exercises for each muscle group 8 to 12 times per session.
How can you stay safe when being active?
You wear your seatbelt when you drive to help keep you safe. Likewise, there are things you can do to help make sure your workouts are safe:
Does being physically active cost money?
It doesn’t have to. Sure, you can join a gym or pay to play certain sports. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the physical activity you need. For aerobic activity, walk or run around your neighborhood. Your local recreation center may have low-cost exercise programs that you can join. If you need to stay inside, try exercising to a workout video.
For strength training, use things you find in your house. Make your own weights—use soup cans or fill plastic bottles with water or sand. And use your own body weight by doing activities like push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups.
What if you haven’t exercised in a while?
If you've never been active or haven't been in a while, start slowly. Begin your physical activity program with short sessions of 5 to 10 minutes and build up from there.
If you haven’t exercised in a long time, talk to your health provider before you start any physical activity if you:
How can you stay motivated to keep exercising?
Here are some tips to keep your workouts fun:
Last reviewed November 2012