What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

You may also download a PDF version [203KB] for Adobe Acrobat Reader or a PostScript version [430KB] .

Key Messages

  • Physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits.
  • Men and women of all ages benefit from a moderate amount of daily physical activity. The same moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as 30 minutes of brisk walking) as in shorter sessions of more strenuous activities (such as 15-20 minutes of jogging).
  • Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity. Adults who maintain a regular routine of physical activity that is of longer duration or of greater intensity are likely to derive greater benefit. However, because risk of injury also increases with greater amounts of activity, care should be taken to avoid excessive amounts.
  • Previously sedentary people who begin physical activity programs should start with short sessions (5-10 minutes) of physical activity and gradually build up to the desired level of activity.
  • Adults with chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or who are at high risk for these conditions should first consult a physician before beginning a new program of physical activity. Men over age 40 and women over age 50 who plan to begin a new program of vigorous activity should consult a physician to be sure they do not have heart disease or other health problems.

 Top of Page


  • More than 60 percent of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of activity.
  • Approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults are not active at all.
  • Physical inactivity is more common among:
    • Women than men.
    • African American and Hispanic adults than whites.
    • Older than younger adults.
    • Less affluent than more affluent people.
    • Social support from family and friends has been consistently and positively related to regular physical activity.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.
  • Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
  • Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.
  • Helps control weight, develop lean muscle, and reduce body fat.

 Top of Page

What Communities Can Do

  • Provide environmental inducements to physical activity, such as safe, accessible, and attractive trails for walking and bicycling, and sidewalks with curb cuts.
  • Open schools for community recreation, form neighborhood watch groups to increase safety, and encourage malls and other indoor or protected locations to provide safe places for walking in any weather.
  • Provide community-based programs to meet the needs of specific populations, such as racial and ethnic minority groups, women, older adults, persons with disabilities, and low-income groups.
  • Encourage health care providers to talk routinely to their patients about incorporating physical activity into their lives.
  • Encourage employers to provide supportive worksite environments and policies that offer opportunities for employees to incorporate moderate physical activity into their daily lives.

 Top of Page

For More Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, MS K-46
4770 Buford Highway, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3724
1-888-CDC-4NRG or 1-888-232-4674 (Toll Free)

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Box SG
Suite 250
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

Physical activity can improve health now and in the future. People of all ages, races and ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from more physical activity. Everyone needs both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Even short periods of physical activity can improve health.

Physical activity:

  • Helps prevent unhealthy weight gain.
  • Reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Helps reduce feelings of anxiety and improves sleep quality.
  • Improves cognitive ability and reduces risk of dementia.
  • Improves bone and musculoskeletal health.

Learn more about the Health Benefits of Physical Activity for Adults and the Health Benefits of Physical Activity for Children.

Not everyone has the same opportunity to be physically active. Many people live in neighborhoods with poor sidewalk and street infrastructure, few safe spaces for physical activity, and few destinations (including transit stops) within walking or biking distance from their home. Creating activity-friendly communities can provide safe and convenient places for people to be active. It can also support local economies by increasing retail activity and employment.

When communities are developed or redesigned to promote physical activity, community members should be involved in the planning and decision-making process. It is especially important to include people who  have been left out in the past, such as members of racial and ethnic minority groups, older adults, and people with disabilities.

CDC aims to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 through Active People, Healthy Nation℠, a comprehensive initiative to promote physical activity based on strategies recommended by the Guide to Community Preventive Services.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.


don’t get enough
aerobic physical activity.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

77% OF

don’t get enough
aerobic physical activity.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.


in annual health care costs are related to low physical activity.

Heart Disease

Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease—even for people who have no other risk factors. It can also increase the likelihood of developing other heart disease risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Not getting enough physical activity can raise a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps control blood sugar (glucose), weight, and blood pressure and helps raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol. Adequate physical activity—at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week—can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.


Getting the recommended amount of physical activity can lower the risk of many cancers, including cancers of the breast, colon, and uterus. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health. Moving more and sitting less have tremendous benefits for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, or current fitness level.

Physical activity is one of the best things people can do for their health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition presents new findings on the benefits of regular physical activity, which include:

  • Improved sleep.
  • Increased ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Improved cognitive ability and a reduced risk of dementia.
  • Improved bone and musculoskeletal health.

Emerging research also suggests that physical activity may help our immune systems protect our bodies from infection and disease.

CDC’s Work to Increase Physical Activity

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity uses data from national and state surveys to track levels of physical activity among adolescents and adults. Data are used to assess trends in physical activity, understand differences in populations, and help identify priority action areas.

CDC also works with partners to measure community supports for physical activity. These supports include policies and design approaches that enable safe and convenient walking, biking, wheelchair rolling, and public transportation options for people of all ages, abilities, and physical activity levels. For example, CDC measures how many communities have Complete Streets policies that are designed to improve the safety of streets for all modes of transportation. CDC also measures how many people have shops, stores, or markets near their homes and the land use policies that help make these everyday destinations more convenient.

Many people want to get regular physical activity but live in communities that lack safe, convenient places to be active. CDC funds states, communities, and national organizations to create activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations that connect people from where they live to where they need to go.

These efforts include:

  • Making active transportation more feasible and attractive through land use and zoning policies that allow schools, workplaces, shops, and parks to be located closer to people’s homes.
  • Supporting Safe Routes programs that help students walk, bike, or wheelchair roll to school and older adults reach their destination without driving a car.
  • Implementing Complete Streets policies to make streets safe for people of all ages and abilities to walk, bike, wheelchair roll, or take public transit.
  • Supporting transportation planning that connects active transportation and public transit planning.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

Schools are in a unique position to help students get their recommended 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. CDC Healthy Schools works with states, school systems, communities, and national partners to promote strong physical education and physical activity programs as part of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model.

CDC funds state departments of education and provides specialized tools, recommendations, and resources to help them work with local school districts and schools. The impact and reach of the school health programs developed are shared in success stories and videos.

CDC also publishes guidance for schools and parents to develop a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program including recess, physical education, classroom physical activity, and staff involvement, as well as ways to increase physical activity before, during, and after school.

CDC’s Workplace Health Promotion Program works with employers and other partners to encourage physical activity in the workplace as part of CDC’s Workplace Health Model. CDC focuses its efforts on small and midsize employers because 99% of US employers have fewer than 500 employees. Many employers this size lack the expertise and resources to develop effective public health programs.

CDC also encourages employers to help make physical activity an easier choice for their workers. For example, they can provide on-site walking paths, discounts for local gyms, or subsidies for active commuting options. They can also support efforts to create more safe and accessible options for physical activity in the surrounding community.

What is the most common form of physical activity that sedentary individuals can begin.

In the United States, 96 million adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes, and more than 8 in 10 of them don’t know they have it. The leading preventable risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are being overweight and not getting enough physical activity. CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) is a partnership of public and private organizations working to build a nationwide delivery system for a lifestyle change program proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults with prediabetes.

Participants in the National DPP lifestyle change program learn to make healthy food choices, be more physically active, and cope with stress. These changes can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% (71% for those over 60).

People with arthritis who take part in “joint-friendly” physical activity can reduce their arthritis pain and improve their function, mood, and quality of life. Examples of joint-friendly activities include walking, biking, and swimming. Being physically active can also delay arthritis disability.

Funding from CDC’s Arthritis Program allows partners to offer the following physical activity programs:

  • Active Living Everyday focuses on helping people who are sedentary become and stay physically active. About 20 people come together for 1-hour weekly sessions for 12 to 20 weeks of education and discussion to learn how to become more physically active.
  • EnhanceFitness works to increase strength, boost activity levels, and elevate mood. Certified instructors focus on stretching, flexibility, balance, low-impact aerobics, and strength training exercises.
  • Fit & Strong! focuses on sedentary older adults with lower-extremity joint pain and stiffness. It offers stretching, balance, aerobic, and endurance exercises.
  • Walk with Ease is a community-based walking program that meets three times a week for 6 weeks. Trained group exercise leaders begin each session with a pre-walk discussion covering a topic related to exercise and arthritis, followed by a 10- to 40-minute walk that includes a warm-up and cool-down period.

Nearly 1 in 2 adults in the United States has high blood pressure, which raises a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Physical inactivity is one of the leading preventable risk factors for high blood pressure.

Million Hearts® 2022 is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within 5 years. It focuses on a small set of priorities and targets that can improve cardiovascular health for all.

One of these targets is to reduce physical inactivity by using proven strategies where people live, learn, work, and play. These strategies include providing behavioral counseling for adults with cardiovascular risk factors and creating safe community spaces that encourage activity.

What is the most common type of sedentary behavior?

Common sedentary behaviours include TV viewing, video game playing, computer use (collective termed “screen time”), driving automobiles, and reading. This definition of sedentary behaviour has been published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

What is the most common form of physical activity among adults?

Walking is the most popular aerobic physical activity. About 6 in 10 adults reported walking for at least 10 minutes in the previous week.

What is the best exercise for sedentary lifestyle?

Simple ways to move more every day.
Walk for five minutes every two hours..
Get up and walk around or march in place during TV commercials..
Do a few sets of heel raises, where you stand on your toes. ... .
Always stand or walk around when you're on the phone..
Do a set or two of push-ups against the kitchen counter..

How should a sedentary person start exercising?

If you have been inactive for a long time, start with short sessions (10 to 15 minutes). Add five minutes to each session, increasing every two to four weeks. Gradually build up to being active at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise.