Health Benefits of Each Physical Activity Level

physical activity level
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Each physical activity level provides different benefits. In general, however, most people can benefit from getting more activity each day. This is especially true if you are trying to lose weight. Reach this guide to see where you fall and see if you can improve your physical activity level for better health and wellness.

Your Physical Activity Level

Do you keep track of the amount of exercise you get each day?

Have you ever thought about getting more? The benefits of becoming more physically active go well beyond improving your appearance or fitting into a certain clothing size. Getting more exercise may provide you with significant health benefits.

Different physical activity levels provide different health benefits. Let's take a look at four different physical activity levels and the positive benefits that each one provides.

Sedentary Activity Level

A sedentary or inactive lifestyle means that you get no formal exercise and are not physically active during the day. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to weight gain and eventually, obesity. Inactivity tends to decrease the sense of overall well-being and can increase the risk of developing certain health problems and diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

So why would you engage in a physical activity level that is so low? In some cases, recovery from a serious illness or injury requires you to be less active.

In this circumstance, it's best for you to follow your doctor's orders and rest.

Light Physical Activity Level

Light physical activity refers to activities you do regularly as a part of your everyday life. You might also call these lifestyle activities, like taking the dog for a walk or gardening. These types of activities typically burn about 150 calories a day for the average person.

But the number can vary greatly depending on your body size and the specific type of activity.

The following are examples of light physical activity:

  • Walking to and from work (15 minutes each way)
  • Raking leaves for 30 minutes
  • Playing an easy game of ping pong for 20 minutes

The health benefits of a light physical activity level may include better blood cholesterol levels, reduced body fat, improved blood pressure, and improved metabolic health. Those who are lightly active also experience improved quality of life and typically have a lower risk of developing chronic disease.

Moderate Physical Activity Level

A moderate exercise program refers to participating in some type of cardiorespiratory endurance exercise for at 20 to 60 minutes, three to five days per week. Your moderate physical activity may also include strength training and stretching exercises.

Someone following a moderate exercise program might do one of the following:

Those who follow a moderate exercise program experience all the benefits of light physical activity. They also gain improved physical fitness in the form of increased heart health, improved muscular strength and endurance, and greater flexibility. Moderate exercisers experience an even greater improvement in overall health, quality of life, and reduction of chronic disease risk.

Vigorous Physical Activity Level

A vigorous exercise program refers to exercising for 20 to 60 minutes most days a week, which may include aerobic exercise, interval training, strength training and stretching exercises.

Someone who participates in a vigorous exercise program may perform all of the following activities:

  • Running for 45 minutes, three days per week
  • Doing intervals, two days per week
  • Weight training, three days per week

Those who follow a vigorous exercise program experience all the benefits of lifestyle physical activity and a moderate exercise program; they also see a greater increase in fitness. Additionally, there is a somewhat greater reduction in chronic disease risk for those who follow a vigorous exercise program.

It's important to note that a vigorous exercise program can increase the risk of injury and burn out from over training. It's important to check with your doctor before starting a program of vigorous physical exercise.

*Edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert


Roth, Walton, et al. Fit & Well: Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness 5th Ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill College, 2002.

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