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Related terms
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Related Terms
  • Aerobic exercise, athletic activity, cardiovascular fitness, physical fitness, sports, weightlifting, weight loss, weight training.

  • Exercise is any form of physical activity that helps to promote overall health. Most movement of the body is considered beneficial, as long as it is done in moderation and at the skill level of the person. There are many ways for people to exercise including, gardening, walking, sports activities, and dancing. Patients beginning an exercise program should choose activities that fit their levels of strength and endurance. Exercise that causes extreme pain or discomfort is considered by many experts as unhealthy, and may even cause permanent damage to the body.
  • Exercising on a regular basis may decrease the risk of developing many illnesses, such as heart disease.
  • Based on expert opinion, most regular exercise plans adjusted for the abilities and goals of the patient are about equally beneficial. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that patients choose exercise programs they will do consistently. They also recommend lower impact forms of exercise, such as walking or swimming for pregnant patients and patients unable to handle more intense forms of exercise.
  • American College of Sports Medicine: For cardio-respiratory fitness and body composition: 20 to 60 minutes of continuous or intermittent (bouts of at least 10 minutes) aerobic activity at 55 to 90% maximum heart rate, or at 40 to 85% maximum oxygen uptake, 3 to 5 days per week. For muscular strength and endurance, body composition and flexibility: One set of 8 to 10 exercises, with 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise, 2 to 3 days per week.
  • American Heart Association: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise at 50 to 80% aerobic capacity, at least 3 to 4 days per week.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer: To maintain healthy body weight: 60 minutes moderate activity on all or most days of the week. For cancer prevention: Substitute moderate for vigorous activity several times per week.
  • International Association for the Study of Obesity: To prevent weight regain in formerly obese individuals: 60 to 90 minutes of moderate activity daily, or shorter periods of vigorous activity. To prevent transition to overweight or obesity: 45 to 60 minutes of moderate activity daily, or 1.7 PAL. For children, more activity time is recommended.
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 30 minutes of moderate activity on all or most days of the week.
  • World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research: 30 minutes of vigorous or 60 minutes of moderate activity daily, plus additional 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous activity once a week.
  • World Health Organization: 30 minutes of moderate activity every day.

Theory / Evidence
  • There is extensive scientific evidence suggesting that regular exercise offers major health benefits. According to the CDC, the failure to exercise regularly is a significant precursor to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Exercising on a regular basis is one of the most inexpensive and easiest measures a person can take in order to reduce their risk and/or delay the onset of serious illnesses.
  • Current opinion finds regular exercise to boost energy, encourage healthy sleep patterns and help individuals maintain a regular weight. All major medical organizations recommend exercise as one of the most important ways to stay healthy and recover after illness.
  • The American Heart Association recommends exercise for at least thirty minutes of continuous activity for at least three times a week as a way to help keep blood pressure low, and the American Cancer Association recommends exercise to keep cancer at bay.
  • The type of exercise is not as important as a consistent exercise schedule. Most experts today agree that burning calories should not be the goal of exercise; rather, the achievement of overall physical fitness is the important factor in remaining health. Increasing levels of physical activity even slightly may significantly benefit a person's health.


Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. American Academy of Family Physicians: Exercise. 8 May 2006.
  2. American Academy of Family Physicians: Pregnancy and Exercise. 9 May 2006.
  3. American Cancer Society. 8 May 2006.
  4. American Heart Association. 8 May 2006.
  5. Centers for Disease Control: Overweight and Obesity. 9 May 2006.
  6. Journal of the American Medical Association. 8 May 2006.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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