How to determine your activity level

If you’ve ever tried to calculate how many calories you need each day, you’ll notice that you need to first determine your activity level. Generally, these categories are broken up into sedentary, moderately active or highly active. For some people, it’s easy to determine to which level they belong. But for most people, it’s not that simple.

Considering the vast majority of people overestimate how much activity they actually do each day, accurately determining your activity level can be the difference between reaching your fitness goals or falling short. Here are the government’s guidelines to determine your activity level.

Determine your activity level


A sedentary lifestyle is one in which you only engage in physical activity related to daily living. Doing the laundry, shopping and cooking do not get your heart rate up enough to be considered added physical activity. You’re probably leading a sedentary lifestyle if you sit most of the day.

Moderate activity

You fall in this category if you engage in moderate physical activity around 2.5 hours per week. This is beyond the movement of daily life. This is approximately 1.5 to 3 miles per day if you walk 3-4 mph. Consider yourself moderately active if you do vigorous activity for one hour and 15 minutes per week.

High activity

If you’re a highly active person, you’re exercising more than 2.5 hours per week at a moderate intensity. If you’re walking more than 3 miles per day at 3-4 mph, consider yourself highly active. Take note: If you’re working at a vigorous intensity more than one hour and 15 minutes per week, you fall in this category.

But …

These are the guidelines as per the CDC. Unfortunately, there’s a huge caveat. Studies have shown time and time again that your body doesn’t get the full benefits of exercise if you’re sitting most of the day. Your activity level isn’t only be based on the time you spend exercising, but also the time you aren’t moving at all.

That said, if you are mostly sitting throughout the day (office workers and others with desk jobs), your overall activity level drops down. Even if you exercise religiously, you’re probably classified as moderately active or sedentary if you spend most of your day not moving.

As previously mentioned, most people overestimate their daily activity levels. This is why I generally recommend my clients place themselves in the sedentary or moderately active categories. Rare is it that I place someone in the highly active category.

Becoming more active

determining your activity levelBeing busy, having a sedentary job and life in general can make it hard to work in activity. There’s good news, though! Adding activity doesn’t have to be super difficult. Just remember: Any activity is better than none at all. The CDC recommends that bursts of exercise come in at least 10-minute chunks. Ten minutes? That’s it?! Awesome! Even if you can build in one 10-minute burst in your day, you’ll get 70 minutes of exercise per week. From there, you can ramp up to three 10-minute segments throughout the day.

Here’s a tip: Try doing 10 minutes of activity when you wake up and 10 minutes again before you go to bed. That’s 20 minutes right there. If you can fit in another 10-minute burst during the day, you’ve hit your goal.

Ready to get started? Try Body and Mind by Muna’s online gym to get in your daily dose of activity!

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