Many people do not take specific exercise because they believe that they have the time or level of commitment to engage in some other regular activity. However, often what is lacking is not commitment, but information on appropriate options.
In 1995, researchers at the Institute for Research and Education Health System in Minneapolis, Minnesota, devised the Activity Pyramid, an easy-to-follow visual system based on the idea that all adults should undertake at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day. Modelled on the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide pyramid, the Activity Pyramid makes practical suggestions regarding types of suitable exercise based on a person’s level of fitness and lifestyle (The Bulletin, 1995, 39: 107-11).
According to this system, sedentary individuals are encouraged to focus on the base of the pyramid, which includes suggestions for a broad range of physical activities that can fit into most lifestyles, such as parking farther away or using the stairs instead of the lift.
More active individuals are directed to the next level up of activities – including recreational and aerobic exercise such as dancing, basketball and brisk walking three to five times a week – which can be enjoyable and realistic goals if you choose activities you like to do.
The third level up from the base of the pyramid includes leisure activities such as golf, bowling, yoga and weight training two to three times weekly.
The tip of the pyramid comprises the activities that should occupy the least amount of time in your life, such as prolonged sitting, watching TV or playing computer games.