Physical Activity Pyramid Tips and Importance

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Physical activity is essential for an active and healthy lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. Physical activity means subjecting your body to a range of movements that utilize the energy stored in your body and muscle strength.

Thirty minutes of fitness exercise prevents the development of chronic disease, sixty minutes of fitness activity helps to avoid weight gain, and ninety minutes of physical workout helps in weight loss. Fitness activity can either be moderate or strenuous depending upon your endurance level and stamina.

What is the Physical activity Pyramid?

The Physical Activity Pyramid has been created to classify various types of solid activities. Every kind of physical practice included in this Pyramid has specific health benefits. The US Department of Health and Health Services stipulates sixty minutes of fitness activity to remain fit and healthy every day. 

This is a guide for the people willing to comply with USDHHS’s recommendation of sixty minutes of solid activity daily. The best approach is to perform all the activities included in the Pyramid through a week to derive maximum health benefits

The frequency of physical activities depends upon their position in the Pyramid. The fitness activities present at or near the bottom of the Pyramid need to be performed more frequently, while those present near or top of the Pyramid need to be performed less frequently. 

Apart from frequency, time and intensity also vary from one level of the Pyramid to another. The fundamental principle used to create this Pyramid is FITT, where F stands for frequency, I stands for intensity, T stands for time, and the final T means a type of Solid activity.

Physical activity pyramid
Physical Activity Pyramid Tips and Importance

Physical activities making up various levels

Check the types of physical activities making up various levels of the Pyramid. Here we have started from the base of the Pyramid labeled one and proceeded in ascending order.

Level 1

Level 1 or the bottom part includes lifestyle and moderate activities. Using the term lifestyle activities, we indicate the plethora of physical activities that are a part of our daily normal life routine. 

These include sweeping or mopping the floor of your house and doing other household chores, mowing or weeding your lawn, going to the market on foot to buy supplies, climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator at your office, or home many other fitness activities in your daily life. 

Moderate sporting activities such as golf, bowling, cycling for short distances, etc., also make up the bottom of the Pyramid. Health experts recommend thirty minutes of moderate fitness activity.

Since level 1 is the bottom of this Pyramid, should perform both lifestyle and moderate sporting activities daily. The major benefit of indulging in level 1 physical activities is controlling your body fat. Moving your body prevents your body from getting used to an inactive lifestyle and helps you keep a sedentary routine at bay.

Level 2

Level 2 is represented by aerobics exercise. Aerobics are those fitness activities that increase your heart rate, boost your respiration rate, and cause sweating. It implies that such activities are strenuous and not moderate like the activities of level 1. The meaning of aerobic is ‘with oxygen.’ Such exercises need to be performed continuously for a long period.

Running is a very common and effective form of aerobic exercise. It helps in burning calories, increases the heart rate, and reduces excess body fat. A pair of proper running shoes is essential to run properly.

Stretching is advisable after each running session to prevent injuries. Brisk walking is another beneficial type of aerobic exercise. The major benefits of brisk walking include:

  • The prevention of obesity and depression.
  • Lowering high blood pressure.
  • Reducing the risk factors of various lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The aerobic strength circuit includes multiple body movements such as pushups, torso twists, dips, squats, and lunges. Should perform each circuit for 1 minute and must complete2-3 circuits.

The rest period between each circuit can be 5 minutes. The aerobic strength circuit improves stamina, tones muscles, and enhances overall cardiovascular health. 

Other forms of aerobics include aerobic dance, jogging, kickboxing, and cross-country skiing. 

Aerobic activities increase the stroke volume of the heart. Stroke volume is the volume of blood pumped by the heart with each beat. It means the heart becomes more efficient in pumping blood because more blood volume is pumped with fewer beats in a minute. This is why doing aerobic exercises makes you capable of performing strenuous activities without much increase in heart rate. 

Aerobic exercises also help muscles use oxygen more efficiently due to the increased activity of the enzymes transporting oxygen from the blood cells to the muscles. Another important benefit of aerobic exercises is the efficient burning of fat due to more oxygen required to burn fat.

Since aerobics make up level 2 of the Physical Activity Pyramid, it need not be performed daily, as is the case with level 1. The recommended frequency for performing aerobic exercises is 3-5 days a week. Each aerobic session should last for 20-60 minutes, depending upon your stamina and motivation. 

Level 3

Vigorous sports represent Level-3. Vigorous sports include soccer, hockey, badminton, tennis, basketball, and many others. Such sporting activities increase the heart and respiration rate because the muscles use more oxygen to sustain the activity demanded by such sports.

In this respect, vigorous sports are similar to aerobic exercises. However, the difference is concerning duration. Unlike aerobics, vigorous sports involve rest periods between bouts of activity. The combination of short periods of activity separated by short periods of rest helps in properly deriving the health benefits of vigorous sports.

Indulging in vigorous sporting activities helps in keeping weight under control. A healthy weight helps in preventing many diseases, especially of the cardiovascular system. Endurance and the ability to perform exhausting tasks without running out of breath are other benefits of playing vigorous sports.

The frequency of physical activities decreases as we go up in this Pyramid. Thus, playing vigorous sports is not necessary. The suggested frequency is three times a week. However, it is necessary to play any vigorous sports for at least 20 minutes on each of the three days that you may choose in a week.

Level 4

Level 4 is made of exercises that increase the strength and endurance of muscles. Your muscles’ high strength and endurance enable you to exert force consistently over a long period without getting fatigued or suffering an injury. 

Muscle fitness exercises are beneficial for marathon runners and players of other high endurance sports. But such exercises are useful for non-athletes as well to improve stamina.

Some of the most effective muscle fitness exercises include plank, pushups, walking lunges, bodyweight squats, situps, jumping, rock climbing, weight training, and calisthenics. 

These exercises increase muscle endurance, improve the body’s energy levels, strengthen the back portion of the body, improve the posture, fortify the bones, and bring about a significant improvement in the body’s appearance. 

Since muscle fitness activities are near the top, they need not be performed frequently. These exercises should be performed not more than 2-3 times a week. The duration of each session can be 20-30 minutes. 

Should take precautions to avoid injury. If you have been out of touch with exercises, it would be better to consult a doctor about the types of muscle fitness exercises suitable for your body before starting the regimen.

Level 5

Level 5 of the activity features those exercises which increase body flexibility. Flexibility exercises make the body more resistant to injuries, reduce the risk of developing back pain, reduce muscle soreness, improve posture, and make the body more stable.

Flexibility exercises are beneficial for gymnasts and dancers to improve their performance because performing a wide range of movements is increased significantly. Workouts also become more effective because risks of injuries are reduced. In addition, flexibility exercises are used in hastening the process of recovery in people who have suffered injuries.

There are many types of flexibility exercises such as quad stretch, side stretch, standing calf stretch, seated hamstring stretch, forward hang, shoulder stretch, back stretch, butterfly groin stretch, modified cobra, split squat, frog stretch, knee to chest stretch, lying pectoral stretch, sphinx lose, reclining bound angle pose, pretzel stretch, seated neck release, yoga poses, etc.

Flexibility exercises lie near the apex in here. Thus, flexibility exercises should be performed not more than three days a week.

Level 6

Level 6 is the apex of this guide. This zone represents physical inactivity. The purpose of placing fitness inactivity at the top of the Pyramid is to indicate that it is imperative to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

Spending too much time in front of the television, mobile phone, computer, video game, and other devices is a major reason for physical inactivity. Spending more time doing no fitness activity as compared to solid activities is a grave mistake.

Physical inactivity causes several health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, weak muscles, osteoporosis, etc. Multiple researchers have established the link between a sedentary lifestyle and health issues.

However, since physical inactivity is a part of this Pyramid, completely shunning it is not recommended. Periods of physical inactivity for rest and sleep, studying, and even spending time on television or mobile are also important for overall good physical and mental health.

The only thing that you must ensure is that physical inactivity is kept to the minimum levels, as is also symbolized by the Pyramid.

Physical activity Pyramid guide for children

Children and adolescents must indulge in physical activities for at least sixty minutes each day. It helps them adopt a healthy lifestyle in the early stages of their lives and avoid grave diseases in the adult years. Thus, this guide is as much useful for children as for adults.

Level 1 activities for children can be walking to school instead of a car or other forms of transport, taking the family dog for a walk daily, climbing stairs at home, helping in shopping, and doing minor household chores. Such activities should become a part of the routine for the children.

Level 2 activities for children should involve aerobic activities. The best aerobic activities for children include skating, swimming, cycling, running, jumping, and sports that require sustained physical activity. The frequency can be 3-6 times a week, with each session not lasting more than thirty minutes.

Level 3 physical activities for children include playing sports such as football and basketball besides light running. Can also play various types of games in the afternoon. The intensity of such activities should be moderate and should not exceed 3-4 times a week.

Level 4 activities are for improving muscle fitness. For children, the best activities include rock climbing, rope climbing, and elastic band exercises. Can do this activity 2-3 times a week.

Level 5 activities for children include yoga, Pilates, gymnastics, and stretching exercises to make muscles flexible. Twice a week is sufficient for such activities under the supervision of an adult trainer.

Level 6 of this Pyramid for children stipulates not more than 2 hours of inactivity. It means the total time allotted for watching television, surfing the internet, or playing video games should be 2 hours.

Physical activity pyramid
physical activities daily

Benefits of Physical Activity Pyramid

By following the Physical activity Pyramid, you can maintain healthy body weight, reduce body fat, avoid chronic diseases, improve muscle strength and flexibility, maintain good bone health and reduce the risk of anxiety and depression. 


1) How to pick exercises from the Physical Activity Pyramid?

Each and every zone of the Pyramid is important. You need to ensure that your body gets enough movements every day and you are not sitting idle. In addition, aerobic exercises, muscle training, stretching exercises, and playing any kind of vigorous sports on specific days are also required to maintain a healthy constitution.

2) How much duration is enough for daily physical activities? 

A similar type of physical activity you may choose for the day, it is important to indulge in moderate to strenuous physical activities for 60 minutes each day to lose excess weight. The duration can be gradually increased to 90 minutes as your body gets used to physical activities.

3) Can elderly people follow the Physical Activity Pyramid Guide? 

Yes. However, elderly individuals should start with moderate activities with short sessions spaced over the course of a week. Aerobic activities should not exceed 150 minutes in a week.

Muscle fitness and flexibility exercises can be performed 2 days a week. People suffering from chronic diseases should seek medical consultation before starting an exercise regimen.

Physical activity pyramid
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Pearl M Carter

Greetings! This is Carter, a junior professor of psychology and also an active researcher. Digital marketing is also something I work on for a pretty long time. I’ve conducted many freelance projects on health and human welfare. I’ve always been interested about the human body, mind, and activities that enrich great potential to live a better life. My regular life includes a bunch of sessions of crazy researching on interesting topics, conducting studies with my students on matters of the human mind, and spending free time sharing my experience and ideas to help those who can benefit from self-treating practices. With the TakeYouCare platform, I’m planning to share my knowledge on various physical wellbeing matters, from massages to meditations and more.