But it's not always easy to find the time.
On The Early Show Friday, Dr. Daniel Fisher, a cardiologist who is Director of Exercise Physiology at New York University Medical Center, outlined numerous ways you can fit exercise in.
"It takes a major change in lifestyle," Fisher conceded to co-anchor Harry Smith. "It requires, really, rethinking everything. You have to try to carve it into your day."
Still, you can do it with "just a little bit here and there," Fisher notes. "Just try to work in a little bit extra. Park a little further way; take the bus an extra stop. But work the exercise in."
And it's well worth it, he points out.
"There are clear benefits to exercising," Fisher says. "You can lower blood pressure. You can improve your cholesterol by raising your good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol. You can decrease your risk of heart disease, of diabetes, which is frequently associated with weight gain. There are tremendous benefits to exercise. … We know what an epidemic obesity is."
The U.S. Department of Health And Human Services and Department of Agriculture recommends three different levels of physical activity:
Moderate exercise is defined as a level of effort in which your breathing or heart rate increases. People who are healthy should still be able to talk while they are walking, briskly for example. Jogging is a more vigorous form of exercise. Other moderate levels of exercise include such activities as dancing, swimming, or biking on a level terrain.
Vigorous Exercise means you're exercising intensely or at a level that's very challenging for you. You should notice a large increase in your breathing or heart rate, to the point where you can't carry on a conversation. Examples of vigorous exercise include jogging, mowing the lawn with a hand mower or by turning off the motorized mechanism on a power mower, high impact aerobics, swimming laps, biking uphill, carrying more than 25 pounds up a flight of stairs, and standing or walking with more than 50 pounds.
To work exercise into your lifestyle, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests being creative and planning when you can exercise -- before or after work, or before eating are good times:
- Set up a routine
- Walk, cycle, jog, skate to work, school, the store or your place of worship. Try to get some walking in to or from work. You can park your car or get off of the bus one to several blocks from your destination.
- Take the stairs at work, instead of the elevator or escalator
- When watching TV, don't just sit there. Try walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bicycle or using a stair climber.
- Play with children and pets
- Take fitness breaks, like walking or doing desk exercises, instead of taking a cigarette or coffee break
- Garden or do home repair activities
- Avoid labor-saving devices. Turn off the self-propel option on the lawn mower or vacuum cleaner.
- Use leg power. Take small trips on foot to keep your body moving
- Keep a pair of sneakers or comfortable walking shoes available for walking
- Make walking on a Saturday morning a habit with a group, friend or family member.
- Walk while doing your errands.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 percent of American children are overweight or obese. That number has doubled in the past two decades. Fisher says they should do any kind of activity to get them moving, and it should be something they enjoy.