WARNING: Prolonged sitting and physical inactivity causes chronic disease and premature death!

You may recognize signs like this from public service announcements about the hazards of smoking. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and many chronic (lasting greater than 6 months) conditions. Most Americans know they should, “exercise more and eat better”, but a good majority of Americans many not know what this means exactly.  Do you know the recommended amount of physical activity for improving overall health and quality of life?

To gauge how you close you are to the guidelines you should ask yourself these 2 simple questions:

  1. “On average, how many days/week do you engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity (like brisk walking)?”  _________ days/week
  2. “On average, how many minutes do you engage in physical activity at this level?” ____________ minutes/day

Get your total activity by multiplying the responses = days/week x minutes/day = to get minutes per week. The recommended prescription is:

150 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week (Example: 30 minute brisk walk 5 days of the week), in addition to strength training for major muscle groups 2 times per week.

In order to protect unnecessary stress to your heart and joints; if you are not currently engaged in regular physical activity you should:

  • Avoid unaccustomed, vigorous physical exertion and high risk activities (e.g. Racquet sports, water or cross-country skiing, highly competitive sports, deer hunting, snow shoveling).
  • Always start any moderate/vigorous activity with warm-up and follow-up with cool-down procedures.
  • If experience chest pain or pressure, lightheadedness, or heart palpations/arrhythmias consider this a warning sign and stop exercise until cleared by your doctor.
  • Exertion level should range “fairly light” to “somewhat hard” to know that you are at a training heart rate.
  • Reduce the intensity of exercise in hot weather or at altitudes of >1500m until acclimatized.

Other physical activity tips:

Children and adolescents should obtain up to 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

Regular exercise substantially reduces adverse health risks, even in the absence of weight loss.  If fact, it has been proven that obese/over-weight persons who are at least moderately fit, have death rate of approximately half those of people within a normal weight range who are not fit.

It is important to find a physical activity you enjoy and set realistic goals by exploring what you are willing and able to do to increase your physical activity levels. A great way to increase your daily activity is to keep track of it on a calendar or through a smart phone app.


  1. National Physical Activity Plan. Physical Activity Plan Web Site. http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/docs/2016NPAP_Finalforwebsite.pdf. Accessed September 17,2016
  2. Sallis, Robert E., Baggish, Aaron L., Franklin, Barry A., Whitehead, James R.,. The call for a physical activity vital sign in clinical practice. AJM the American Journal of Medicine 2016;129(9):903-5.
  3. Myers, Jonathan, McAuley, Paul, Lavie, Carl J., Despres, Jean-Pierre, Arena, Ross,Kokkinos, Peter,. Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness as major markers of cardiovascular risk: Their independent and interwoven importance to health status. YPCAD Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases 2015;57(4):306-14.