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Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 19, 2021

Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults

Exercise is an essential part of wellbeing. But how much physical activity is needed for a grown adult?  Here are thee physical activity guidelines for adults worth remembering to ensure that you maintain optimal physical health.

Why is Physical Activity Important?

Physical activity or exercise does not only help tone your physique, but it also helps ensure the proper functioning of your body. Exercising regularly has a lot of benefits that can improve your overall health. It can also reduce the risks of you developing chronic diseases like hypertension, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, etc.

Doing physical activities reduces anxiety, stress, depression, and mood swings as it helps with your self-esteem and cognitive function, thus improving mental health. When exercising regularly, your body will produce more endorphins that will relieve your stress and pain, as well as make you feel more energetic and positive.

Exercise Intensity

For people with very busy schedules, finding the right exercise can be a difficult task. That is why there are several activities with varying intensities that are recommended for busy individuals.

The intensity of each exercise varies from person to person. The exercise intensity will depend on how you feel and your heart rate.

Subjectively, you can measure the intensity of your workout depending on how you feel while doing a certain exercise. In its most basic sense, the intensity of the exercise you will do is tailor-fit to your preferences. For example, during a hike, you might feel exhausted while others continue to cover more distance.

To objectively measure your exercise intensity, you can take a look at your heart rate by using a fitness tracker, or you can do it manually by taking your pulse. Basically, a higher heart rate is equivalent to higher exercise intensity.

Physical activities recommended for adults

Here are some physical activity guidelines for adults:


When you have been inactive for a while, or you are starting fresh with exercise, you should begin with light to moderate-intensity workouts. As time progresses, you can gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your physical activities.

Before and after exercise routine

Warming up is the most important thing you need to accomplish before starting your workout routine. Doing warm-ups will help loosen your muscles and joints, as well as increase blood flow to your muscles. Warming up before an exercise will keep you safe from injuries during your workout.

Cooling down is an important after-exercise ritual that helps your body recover from all the tension you put in during your session. When you cool down, your heart rate and blood pressure gradually return to their normal level, and it also relaxes your tensed muscles. Not cooling down after workout can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, and in some cases, faint.

Warming up and cooling down only takes about 10 minutes of your workout session.

Aerobic Exercise

Commonly known as cardio, aerobic exercises are physical activities that make your heart rate go up and improve your cardiorespiratory health.

Doing aerobic exercises in moderate-intensity can make your heart rate rise. It can also make you breathe a little deeper, but you will still be able to talk while working out.

Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises include:

  • Water aerobics
  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Gardening
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Catching and throwing sports like volleyball, baseball, and softball

Vigorous-intensity aerobics are physical activities that require you to exert more effort. This high-intensity exercise will make you feel warm and break a sweat. It can also make your heart rate higher than an aerobic exercise, and you won’t be able to finish full sentences without catching your breath.

Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming (laps)
  • Jumping rope
  • More extreme gardening or yard work like digging and hoeing
  • Hiking uphill with a bulky backpack
  • Running sports like track and field, basketball, and soccer
  • Karate
  • Bicycling for 10 miles or more per hour
  • Fast dancing

Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

A muscle-strengthening workout boosts muscle strength, helps maintain healthy body weight, as well as stronger and healthier bones. It involves exercises like:

  • Weight training
  • Resistance training using a resistance band and weight machines, and free weights
  • Push-ups, sit-ups, and squats
  • Extreme gardening like digging and hoeing
  • Rock climbing

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is an important part of physical fitness. Certain exercises that help stretch and lengthen muscles can help you move to lighter, make you more flexible, and help your muscles to reach its full range of motion. Doing flexibility exercise also prevents you away from suffering injuries, back pain, and muscle soreness.

Flexibility exercises include:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Stretching
  • Tai chi

Recommended Minutes of Exercise

Aside from the type of exercise, the suggested duration of the exercises is also an important part of physical activity guidelines for adults. These are the recommended exercise duration for adults ages 18-64:

  • Do at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. If you cannot complete the 150 minutes of moderate-intestinal exercise, you can try doing at least 70 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise or a combination workout.
  • You can achieve more benefits when you exercise for 300 minutes or 5 hours per week or by doing more moderate-intensity activities.
  • It is ideal to do aerobic exercises in at least 10 minutes per session.
  • Integrate moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening exercises in your workout routine at least 2 days per week.

Once you get the hang of working out, gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your workout sessions for more benefits. Make sure to move or do light activities daily and avoid spending too much time sitting or laying down.

Key Takeaways

Physical activities are essential to achieve and maintain a healthy body. The physical activity guidelines for adults encourage people to start moving and lead healthier, active lifestyles.

It is also important to keep in mind that before doing any of the physical activities mentioned above, you must first consult your doctor, especially if you’re an older adult, pregnant, or if you have underlying medical conditions.

Learn more about Health Fitness, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 19, 2021

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