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Regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart and other diseases.  It substantially reduces the risk of dying from coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. 

Physical activity can also help reduce the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and control weight. It also contributes to healthy bones, muscles, joints, balance and even has been associated with reducing anxiety and depression. 

It doesn't take running 10 miles a day or pumping iron at the gym seven days a week.  Simply work at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise into your life five days a week and you'll start to see a difference. 

Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of all Americans do exercise at the level to get health benefits.  And 25 percent are considered sedentary. 

More than one-third of teens do not get regular exercise at the beneficial level. It's best to get started young, as a child, but you can improve your physical activity at any age.   So, let's find ways that you can improve your physical activity through exploring fun, creative ways of play!

Note: The WakeMed Pediatric Diabetes Program offers a unique health and wellness program entitled, "ENERGIZE!" for children ages 6 - 18 who are at risk for developing diabetes. For more information.

Fun Exercise or Play Ideas for the Entire Family
How to Get Fit in Your Daily Activities
Fitness Recommendations
Body Mass Index - BMI
Exercise Tips
Exercising with Kids
Activity Recommendations for Children
Links to Community Exercise Facilities, Parks and Greenways
Children's Diabetes Program
Adult Diabetes Program
Cholesterol Screening-Know Your Number

Fun Exercise or Play Ideas for the Entire Family

  • Do exercise that you LIKE and that feels FUN to you.
  • Teach your children lifetime sports such as tennis, golf, skiing, softball and skating.  Play games outside such as hopscotch, tag and jumping rope. Fun habits are habits that last a lifetime.
  • Exercise with your children.  This is a great way to spend quality time together while promoting health for the entire family.
  • Try a new exercise once a month, so at the end of the year, you will have 12 new things to add to your exercise program.
  • Try activities such as walking, dancing, swimming, water walking, yoga, Pilates, aerobics classes or videos, cycling, skiing- just be creative!

Consistent exercise doesn't have to mean a 30-min or 1-hour block of time at the gym.

  • Walk 10 minutes at lunch
  • Chase the kids around at the park
  • Do 15-20 minutes of an exercise video in the morning before everyone is out of bed
  • Take the stairs whenever you can
  • While watching TV or sitting at your desk, pause every hour for a 5-minute physical activity break.

How to Get Fit in Your Daily Activities
Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity may be easier and more convenient than you expect.  With some creativity and planning, everyone can make time for meeting the daily-30 minute goal.  Here are some ideas:

  • Walk to school, work or shopping.  Walk with your child to school, if possible.  That way, you both get exercise and quality time with each other!
  • Park in the farthest lot from your destination. Just make sure that your route is safe. Always keep walking shoes in your car.
  • Get off the bus or subway at an earlier stop and walk.
  • Always take the stairs and walk to talk to a co-worker, instead of calling or sending an e-mail.
  • Take regular "exercise" breaks from your desk and computer.  Take a fitness walk with co-workers or family, instead of the morning or afternoon coffee break.
  • Get into gardening or learn to do your own home repairs.
  • Join a neighborhood walking, biking or running group.  Recruit family members to join you.  Take the baby and push the stroller.
  • Instead of renting a movie for the family, take an evening walk or bike with your kids.
  • Join a recreational team, such as softball, basketball, bowling, volleyball, soccer or rowing.
  • Get out the leash and take the family dog out for a walk.  It will benefit both of you.
  • Clean the house, wash the car or weed the plants.
  • Make stretching a regular part of your day.  You muscles need the attention, especially before exercise.
  • Instead of sitting and watching TV, watch while riding an exercise bike, using a treadmill or elliptical trainer. 
  • Push the mower and leave the riding mower parked.
  • Play with your children - engage them in fun activities like jumping rope, playing ball, tag, dodge ball or skating.  You'll also enjoy the extra time with your kids!
  • Add some fun activities that you've never tried before, such as skating, biking, swimming, water aerobics, rowing or skiing.
  • Sign up for a martial arts, dance, yoga, Pilates or T'ai Chi class.
  • Take up golfing, racquetball, tennis or squash with a buddy.
  • Most of all, just MOVE!
  • If you're been inactive for a while, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.  Start with moderate-intensity activities that you enjoy and gradually build the time by adding a few minutes every couple of days. Try a variety of activities so that you get the benefit of cross-training.  Don't get bored with the activity.  If you don't enjoy an activity, switch to one that you will enjoy.

Fitness Recommendations

Most people are confused about how much exercise is enough to stay healthy.  The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that scientific evidence proves that exercise done at a moderate-intensity level can produce health benefits.  Even if you have been sedentary your entire life, you can reap immediate benefits from beginning exercise.  While studies have shown that activities performed at a vigorous intensity or for a longer time offers more health benefits, this level of exercise isn't possible for everyone. 

To benefit your heart, exercise at 60 to 85% of your maximum heart rate.  To determine your desired rate, subtract your age from 220.  This number is how many times your heart should beat per minute.  Multiply the number by .6 and .85 to determine your desired heart rate range.  Try to exercise at that level for 30 to 45 minutes.

Adults need moderate-intensity physical activity for at 30 minutes at least five days a week.  Can be done in 10-minute increments for a total of 30 minutes.

Or, if you are physically able, participate in vigorous-intensity physical activity three or more days per week for 20 minutes or more each session.

Moderate intensity exercise means that you should experience some increased breathing or heart rate, such as when walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, cycling on level terrain so that you are burning 3.5 to 7 calories per minute. 

Vigorous intensity exercise involves great increase in breathing or heart rate, so that conversation is difficult.  Activities, like jogging, mowing the lawn with a non-motorized push mower, aerobic dancing, swimming continuous laps, cycling up hills, carrying more than 25 pounds up a flight of stairs or walking with more than 50 pounds, that burn more than 7 calories per minutes are considered vigorous.

(source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/American Collage of Sports Medicine)

Adult and Children's BMI Calculator
This calculator provides Body Mass Index (BMI) and the corresponding BMI weight status category. Use this calculator for adults, age 20 years and older. For children and teens, 2 through 19 years old, use the BMI Calculator for Children and Teens.

Exercise Tips
Get up and get moving by walking, participating in group sports or dancing with your partner.  Do exercises that you can enjoy for a lifetime.  And mix it up with a variety of activities.  Try walking more in the fall when the weather is cool.  For a cool down in the summer, try swimming.  Switch to dancing, group classes or team sports in the winter.  Or, stopping sitting while watching TV and put a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical trainer in place of the easy chair. 

Here are some quick ideas to get you moving and enjoying physical activities. Print it out and try a new activity every few weeks. Make sure that you warm up with proper stretching and cool down after each activity.

Walking.  Begin walking at a comfortable pace for 15 minutes.  Add a few minutes or a couple of blocks each time out.  Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day, five days a week.  Ask a family member, friend or get the leash out and take the family dog on your outing.  Make sure you are on a safe route, and let someone know your plans.  Invest in a pair of supportive, comfortable walking shoes and wear lightweight, layered clothing.  Take along a water bottle.  To better track your results, wear a pedometer to log your miles.

Walking/Jogging. For the ambitious, jogging is an option.  As with walking, start off slowly at a gentle pace. You can do a walk/jog to get you started and to vary the activity. Wear good running shoes and lightweight clothes, along with carrying a water bottle. Try to run on even surfaces to avoid twisting your ankle and log your miles. You'll be amazed at how quickly you will progress.  In the summer heat, run during early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not as hot.

Water Activities. Swim your way to good health.  Especially during the summer month, swimming can increase your stamina while relaxing your body. You also get a good stretch each time you swim, and it's easy on your body.  It's excellent for those with arthritis or other joint problems.  Start off with a few laps, vary your strokes and add laps each time you swim.  Only swim in a safe location. 

If swimming isn't for you, and you enjoy being in the cool water, try water walking or water aerobics.  You can walk on your own at your community pool or sign up for a deep or shallow water aerobics class.  Walking through thigh-deep water burns twice as many calories as walking on land!

Other water-based activities include rowing, kayaking and canoeing.  You can often rent a water craft at your local community lake.  Canoeing is an especially fun activity for the entire family.  You can take turns rowing so that everyone gets a workout! Top off the outing with a healthy picnic when you get back on land.

Dancing. Dance your way to fitness!  Dance on your deck or in your house with a partner.  Sign up for a group class at the local community center, YMCA or gym.  Take a dance class in ballroom dancing, hip hop or swing.  These will get your heart pumping.  Wear the right shoes and clothing required for safety.

Cycling.  You can hit the streets or bike trail with the entire family. Just make sure that you have the proper equipment - a good, dependable bike, proper clothing and an approved bike helmet.  Take along water for rides.  Bike trails are plentiful in the Triangle and are a great way to see the community.  Stay safe and ride on approved trails, away from heavy traffic and obey the rules of the road. Biking is also an activity that is easy on the joints, so it's a good lifelong exercise.  If you not up for an outdoor ride, put an exercise bike in the house to use while watching a movie or TV.  It's a good way to unwind each evening or to tour a new community. 

Team sports.  Don't think that you have to do solitary activities.  If your company or community offers group sports, like softball, soccer, football or basketball, sign up!  You'll not only enjoy the activity, you'll also make new friends!  Your local YMCA and community centers offer many team sport opportunities.  These activities are low-cost and can include the entire family.

Skating/Rollerblading.  It may have been years since you've visited your local Roller Rink, but equipment now is made to hit the streets and sidewalks.  Buy good equipment and protective gear for skating.  This is a fun, family activity that you can do right in your neighborhood.  There are still some skating rinks where you can go for an afternoon and rent the equipment.  Ice skating rinks - take a lesson first - are also available in the Triangle.

Other fun things for play.

  • Twirl a jump rope for yourself or with the neighborhood kids.  This activity will get your heart to pumping fast!
  • Play a game of tennis.
  • Volunteer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter or rescue group.
  • Sign up for a martial arts class.
  • Hike in the beautiful, nearby mountains.  Select a new location each weekend!
  • Explore a different city parks each week.  Take a healthy picnic lunch for the family.
  • Release your inner child by playing on the community "Jungle Gym."
  • Hold races and competitions in your neighborhood with participating families each weekend. 
  • Adopt a park or roadway to clean.  All of that walking, stretching and bending will leave you - and the land - in better shape!

Exercising with Kids
Children need exercise throughout their formative years so that they will grow up healthy and active.  Exercise improves learning and helps reduce the risk of certain health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.  Exercise helps children:

  • Have strong bones
  • Build their muscles
  • Reduce their risk of becoming overweight
  • Decrease stress and improve sleeping habits
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Develop a positive outlook in life

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), children age 2 and older should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most days.  Activities should be varied and include endurance -walking or swimming, strength - climbing, pull-ups and wrestling, and flexibility - bending and stretching activities.

It's difficult to build in play time when families are juggling school, work and community commitments, but finding time for regular physical activity - or family fun - is beneficial in more ways than just getting fit.  By playing with your children, you're building quality time that they will remember for the rest of their lives.  Let them know that exercise or play time is a priority to help them stay strong, have more energy, improve learning and grow up healthy!

Be a role model for your kids.  Eat, play and live a healthy life so that they will be encouraged by your lifestyle.  Studies have shown that parents are the greatest influence on whether or not a child is active, and if they end up overweight.  So, get up, get moving and have some fun with your kids.  Create some wonderful memories, and give them the balance they need in their lives!

Some basic activities your child may enjoy include:

  • Basketball, softball and football
  • Bicycling
  • In-line skating
  • Ice skating
  • Walking and Running
  • Swimming
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Team sports

Tips for Playing with Your Children

Infant to Age 5

  • While your child is napping, build in time for yourself to exercise.  Use an instructional exercise DVD, use the treadmill or exercise bike.  Jump rope.
  • Break out the stroller and take a walk or jog with your child.  You'll benefit from the exercise, and you'll both benefit by getting outdoors and enjoying nature!
  • Pick up your youngster or get on the floor with them and dance!  Children love music and dance moves help them learn coordination, while providing an excellent form of exercise.  Once they are older, let them select their favorite music.
  • Buy some chalk and play hopscotch on the driveway. 
  • Go to the park.  Run, play, swing and slide your way to fun!
  • Take your child on a bike ride by hitching an approved trailer to your bike.
  • Run in the backyard, and count the fireflies in the evening.

Age 5 to 12

  • Play children's games - Hide and Go Seek, Red Rover, Dodge Ball.
  • Roller skate to the park. Once there, play on the monkey bars, swing, play softball or use the play set and do pull-ups!
  • Take nature walks in your neighborhood or to a different community park on the weekends.
  • Set up an Olympic-style competition in your back yard.  Invite the neighbors and get to know your community.
  • If you go regularly to the community pool, don't just sit there reading.  Get in the pool.  Play Marco Polo, water volleyball or try different swim styles.  Do water walking races!
  • Play follow the leader with a group of children.  Vary the pace, and let each child determine their route and activities.


  • Participate in fund-raising walks and/or runs in the community, and train for the event.
  • Schedule an "after school" fun walk or outing for just the family.  Encourage it to be a time for sharing.
  • Take up a sport together, such as swimming, tennis, soccer or basketball.
  • Join community or neighborhood team sports. 
  • Enlist your child's help to clean the house, mow the yard and plant a vegetable or flower garden. Let them select the flowers or vegetables that they like.

Activity Recommendations for Children
Age/Minimum Daily Activity/Comment

Infant - No specific requirement; Physical activity should encourage motor development 

Toddler - 1 ½ hours; 30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity (free play)
Preschooler -  2 hours; 60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity (free play) 

School age - 1 hour or more; Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more 

Community Exercise Facilities, Parks and Greenways
North Carolina is full of parks, lakes, greenways, restored rails-to-trails and other facilities to help you get a healthy balance in life.  Check out these sites for more information: 

YMCA of the Triangle - Celebrating 150 years in the Community -
Triangle Greenways Council -
City of Raleigh -
Town of Cary -
City of Durham -
Town of Chapel Hill -
North Carolina Trails -
North Carolina Rails-Trails -
North Carolina Department of Transportation - Bike & Pedestrian Division -

WakeMed's Childrens' Diabetes Program
The WakeMed Children's Diabetes Program  is dedicated to providing quality diabetes education and support that integrates the family, medical provider, school and diabetes education program to optimize the management of children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes served by WakeMed. We believe that education and support are the keys to helping families to manage their child's diabetes and to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional health.
WakeMed's Adult Diabetes Program
WakeMed's Adult Diabetes Management Program is staffed by a team of caring, experienced nurse clinicians and dietitians that can help you learn to control your diabetes by eating healthy, exercising and taking your medications properly. We provide this education and support through our Outpatient Program and, if you need to be in the hospital, through our Inpatient Services. Services are available at WakeMed's Raleigh campus and WakeMed Cary Hospital.

Cholesterol -Know Your Numbers
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced in your liver and is also found in certain foods.  It helps make vitamin D and some hormones, build cell walls and create bile salts that help digest fats.  Too much cholesterol can lead to build up on the artery walls of the heart, forming a hard substance called plaque.  This plaque can result in the narrowing of the arteries and decrease blood flow.  Since cholesterol numbers are directly linked to heart disease, it's important that you know your number and monitor it throughout your life. 

The American Heart Association recommends that you have your cholesterol tested beginning at age 20.  This fasting lipoprotein profile - total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides - should be repeated every five years, or as recommended by your physician.
American Heat Association Recommendations on Controlling Cholesterol
To keep your cholesterol levels at optimal levels, the American Heart Association recommends that you eat a healthy diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and high in whole fiber, fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats, limit alcohol, sugar and sodium, don't smoke and exercise regularly.  While family history can impact your cholesterol, having a healthy, balanced life will help reduce your cholesterol levels.