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The New Physical Activity Pyramid

This is an excerpt from Fitness for Life 7th Edition Cloth With Web Resource by Charles B. Corbin,Darla M. Castelli,Benjamin A. Sibley & Guy C. Le Masurier.

The second T in FITT is for the type of activity that you perform. For each type of activity, there is a FIT formula. To make it easy for you to remember the different types of activity, the Physical Activity Pyramid was developed (see figure 6.2). Each step of the Physical Activity Pyramid includes descriptions and examples of the five types of physical activity. A summary of the FIT formula is provided for each type of activity to help you decide how much activity to perform. To meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity, you can choose from the different types of activity. For optimal benefits, you should perform activities from all steps of the pyramid each week, following the FIT formula for each step.

Figure 6.2 The new Physical Activity Pyramid for Teens.
Figure 6.2 The new Physical Activity Pyramid for Teens.
© C.B. Corbin, from Fitness for Life, 7th ed. (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2021).

Avoiding Sedentary Living and Inactivity

Just below the Physical Activity Pyramid (see figure 6.2) you’ll notice three pictures intended to emphasize the importance of avoiding sedentary and inactive behavior. A person is sedentary when doing low-energy activities such as lying down and sitting. The pictures below the pyramid are meant to discourage too much sitting and excessive screen time during the day. A recent survey of children and teens in the United States found that they watch TV for an average of nearly four hours a day. Sixty-eight percent of teens have a TV in their room, and of course many also spend screen time on computers, video games, movies, and cell phones, more than doubling the amount of time they spend watching a screen.

We all need to recover from daily stresses and prepare for new challenges, so periods of rest and sleep are important for good health. Some activities of daily living involving inactivity—such as studying, reading, and even a moderate amount of screen time—are appropriate. However, excessive sedentary behavior is harmful to your health.

Moderate Physical Activity

Moderate physical activity, the first step in the Physical Activity Pyramid, should be performed daily or nearly every day. It involves physical activities equal in intensity to brisk walking. It includes some activities of normal daily living (also called lifestyle activities), such as yardwork and housework (e.g., raking leaves, mopping). It also includes sports that are not vigorous, such as bowling and golf. Some sports can be either moderate or vigorous—for example, shooting basketballs is typically a moderate activity, whereas playing a full-court game is vigorous. National guidelines recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day for teens. Moderate activity is the most common type of physical activity for most people and accounts for the biggest share of daily activity. It is well suited for people of varying abilities and is associated with many of the health benefits of activity described in this book, such as controlling body fat levels.

Fit Fact The word aerobic is a scientific term meaning “with oxygen.” Aerobic physical activity, and the term aerobics, was first popularized in the 1968 book Aerobics, written by Dr. Ken Cooper, the founder of the world famous Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. In Portuguese, the word jogging is translated as “coopering” in recognition of Dr. Cooper’s efforts to promote aerobic physical activity.Vigorous Aerobics

Step 2 of the Physical Activity Pyramid represents vigorous aerobics, such as jogging, swimming, biking, and aerobic dance. Activities at this step are intense enough to increase your breathing and heart rate and make you sweat, but not so vigorous that your body cannot supply enough oxygen to perform the activities for long periods of time without stopping. Like moderate activity, they provide many health and wellness benefits, and they’re especially helpful for building a high level of cardiorespiratory endurance. You should perform vigorous activities at least three days a week in order to meet national activity guidelines.

Vigorous Sports, Recreation, Anaerobics, and Mixed Fitness Activities

Like vigorous aerobics, vigorous recreation and sport activities (represented in step 3 of the Physical Activity Pyramid) require your heart to beat faster than normal and cause you to breathe faster and sweat more. Unlike vigorous aerobics, vigorous sport and recreation often involve short bursts of activity (anaerobic activity) followed by short periods of rest (as in basketball, football, soccer, and tennis). These activities provide similar fitness, health, and wellness benefits to those of vigorous aerobics. They also help you build motor skills and contribute to healthy weight management. As with vigorous aerobics, you can use vigorous sport and recreation to meet the national activity recommendation when performed at least three days a week.

Fit Fact Anaerobic physical activity is activity that is so intense that your body cannot supply adequate oxygen to sustain performance for more than a few seconds. Running a sprint is an example of an anaerobic activity.Other anaerobic activities can also be performed to meet national physical activity guidelines, such as interval training, which involves repeated bouts of vigorous activity alternated with rest periods. Mixed fitness activities consist of several types of activities, such as vigorous aerobics, anaerobics, and muscle fitness exercises (step 4). You will learn more about anaerobic and mixed fitness activities in chapter 9.

Muscle Fitness Exercises

Step 4 in the Physical Activity Pyramid represents muscle fitness exercises, which build strength, muscular endurance, and power. Muscle fitness exercises include both resistance training (with weights or machines) and moving your own body weight (as in rock climbing, calisthenics, and jumping). This type of exercise produces general health and wellness benefits, as well as better performance, improved body appearance, a healthier back, better posture, and stronger bones. These exercises can be used to meet national activity guidelines and should be performed at least three days a week.

Flexibility Exercises

Step 5 of the Physical Activity Pyramid represents flexibility exercises. The ACSM indicates that poor flexibility is related to low back pain. Evidence also indicates that flexibility exercises and other activities that improve flexibility, such as yoga (see figure 6.3) and tai chi, can benefit functional fitness, improve postural stability and balance, and reduce risk of falling among older people. There is also some evidence that flexibility exercises may reduce soreness and prevent injuries. In addition, flexibility exercises improve your performance in activities such as gymnastics and dance and are used in therapy to help people who have been injured. You will learn more about stretching exercises to improve flexibility in chapter 12. To build and maintain flexibility, you should perform flexibility exercises at least three days a week.

Balancing Energy

The top of the pyramid presents a balance scale, illustrating the need for energy balance—meaning that the calories in the food you eat each day are equal to the calories you expend in exercise each day. Energy balance is essential to maintaining a healthy body composition.