The Physical Activity Pyramid is a useful model for illustrating how each type of activity contributes to the development of health, wellness, and physical fitness.

The pyramid has five different steps or levels. Each level represents a step toward achieving health, wellness, and fitness.

Step One

This level includes moderate physical activity such as walking, yard work or golf. The frequency of this level should include at least five days a week of moderate intensity activity (equal to a brisk walk) for 30 minutes or more per day.

Step Two

This includes vigorous aerobic activity such as jogging, biking or aerobic dance. The frequency of this level should be three days a week of higher intensity exercise (where the heart rate is noticeably increased) for at least 20 minutes a day.

Step Three

This level includes vigorous sports and recreation such as hiking or tennis. The frequency of this level should include three days a week of higher intensity sports or recreational activity for 20 minutes or more per day.

Step Four

This includes muscle fitness exercises such as weight training or calisthenics. The frequency should include two to three days of resistance exercise in which you overload the muscles with eight to 12 reps, two to four sets per muscle group.

Step Five

This level includes muscle stretching exercises. The frequency should include at least three days a week of flexibility exercises in which the muscles are stretched beyond their normal length for between 10 to 30 seconds, 2-4 reps per muscle group.

Activities from all steps are important for optimal health, wellness, and fitness. Inactivity is not included in the pyramid because it does not represent a step toward active living. Keep in mind that extended periods of inactivity can be harmful to your health.

The following principles support the Physical Activity Pyramid.

No single activity provides all of the benefits.

Something is better than nothing.

Activities from Steps 2 and 3 can be used instead of, or in combination with, those from Step 1 to achieve health and fitness benefits.

Activities from Steps 4 and 5 are useful even if you are limited in performing activities at other levels.

Good planning will allow you to schedule activities from all steps in a reasonable amount of time.

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