Physical Activity

Physical Activity Overview

Physical activity is any type of activity that gets your body moving. According to federal guidelines, two of the most important kinds of activities are aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities.

Aerobic physical activity or "cardio" gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. Traditionally, we think of vigorous-intensity activities like running and swimming, but moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking from the subway stop and bicycling to the store can also count.

Muscle-strengthening activities, or resistance training, work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, buttocks, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include working with resistance bands, lifting weights, shoveling snow, and yoga. The most important thing is that they need to be done to a point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help. 

Page Divider

Recommended Physical Activity

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend that adults:

Page Divider.
Office of Work/Life Resources Icon

Office of Work/Life Resources

The Office of Work/Life develops and offers programs and initiatives designed to help you meet the recommended federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activity, if able.

Walking is a simple form of physical activity that can be done almost anywhere. With many notable health benefits, walking is also a powerful tool to strengthen relationships and engage with your colleagues, families, and community members.

Walk to Wellness: Fall 2022 Step Challenge! 

Get up and get moving this spring with Steppin' Through History: Columbia University Step Challenge for faculty and staff!  For three weeks, faculty and staff will step through time together from the origins of Kings College to the establishment of Columbia University and beyond. Let’s get steppin’ Columbia!

Monday, October 24th – Friday, November 11th

Deadline to register is October 20th! 


No weights, bands, or equipment needed! This fitness class requires just your own body weight to strengthen and tone muscles. We practiced full body movements such as squats, lunges, and planks for a challenging, back-to-basics fitness class. Over eight sessions, we focused on form, building strength, and moving with joy. Any and all fitness levels are welcome - modifications offered.

Watch the full series in the Well-Being Video Library.

Instructor: India Choquette is an ACE certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. She specializes in functional movement--training that supports better quality of life. She has taught physical education and fitness classes at Columbia University for five years, and works with Columbia Women's Swim Team in addition to training others around New York City.

morningside campus walking map
morningside walking map for riverside park
manhattanville walking map south
manhattanville walking map riverbank state park
CUMC walking map hudson greenway
CUMC walking map hudson greenway

The League of American Bicyclists has recognized Columbia University as a Silver Bicycle Friendly University SM  for its efforts in supporting bicycling.

Bicycling is one of the most healthy, economically-efficient, fun, and environmentally-friendly ways to commute. Ranked among the top forms of exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness, bicycling to work, school, or other destinations as part of one’s regular daily routine can be both a sustainable and time-efficient exercise regimen for achieving adequate aerobic fitness levels, reducing cardiovascular risk, and preventing weight gain.

The Office of Work/Life offers free on-campus bicycling workshops to help you improve your bicycling skills and become a confident, safe bicyclist. Workshop offerings include: Bicycle Maintenance 101, Bicycle Commuting 101, Family Cycling 101, and Bicycling Street Skills.

To learn more about getting to Columbia by bike and Columbia bicycle services and resources, including bicycling discounts, visit To receive updates about bicycle-related activities at Columbia, including group rides and free bike maintenance events, join Columbia's Bicycle Interest Group.

Bicycle Friendly Business Silver Medal

The Take the Stairs campaign encourages the Columbia community to choose the stairs instead of the elevator as a quick way to add physical activity to your day and save electricity.  In fact, stair climbing burns almost 700% more calories when compared to taking the elevator and has been shown to raise good cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.  

Through the campaign, we have engaged several departments and schools in fun team challenges that encourage increased stair use.

To learn more about the campaign or to discuss scheduling a stair challenge in your building or department, contact the Office of Work/Life .

Combining physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation, yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Current research suggests that practicing yoga may reduce pain and stress, lower heart rate and blood pressure, relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.

An initiative of the Office of Work/Life and Columbia Physical Education and Recreation, [email protected] is a challenging yet relaxing yoga experience focused on increasing flexibility, strengthening mind and body, and improving range of motion through postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation/meditation techniques.

To learn more or to discuss scheduling a session or series in your building or department, please fill out this brief form.

You can also access our yoga video series here.

Gym Discounts
  • Crunch is a gym that prides themselves on having a judgment-free, empowering environment. Crunch offers all Columbia University faculty, staff and students a discounted rate on all-access or one-club access month-to-month memberships. Enjoy full-service locker rooms after a hard workout and stay motivated on the go with their fitness app! Download this flyer* for additional details and to get a free 5-day guest pass. Contact Randi Zinker for additional questions and enrollment. 
  • New York Sports Club (NYSC, BSC, WSC, PSC) has over 150 locations featuring state-of-the-art cardio equipment, group exercises classes, cross-training programs, and more. Columbia faculty and staff can enroll with a $49.99 annual fee due up front.  Membership is month to month, 30 day notice to cancel. To enroll or for more information, contact Dzhrnnifer Atayan or call (212) 686-1085. Download this 3-day pass to check out NYSC for free. 
  • Access to Columbia fitness centers is available on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses.
Additional Fitness Discounts
  • Garmin offers wearable technology to support fitness goals. Columbia University employees are eligible for 20% off fitness trackers through Garmin in the following categories: Vivo series, Venu series, Forerunner, Fenix, Instinct, Approach, Index S2, Smart Scale. Visit the group membership website and enter your Columbia University email address and follow email instructions to set up your account. 
  • Additional wellness discounts are available to Columbia faculty and staff through Aetna Columbia Dental Plan’s GlobalFit Benefit and TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks) Employee Assistance Program.
  • Columbia has also partnered with local vendors that provide discounts for Columbia affiliates on sales, bike rentals, maintenance, parts and accessories at local bike shops with your Columbia ID. Visit Columbia Transportation for more information.

For a comprehensive listing of other discounts, including computers, phones, arts, and travel, visit the Human Resources website.

Columbia University Certified Icon

Columbia University Resources

Besides our own programs and initiatives, you can also get involved with these other Columbia wellness programs and resources.

Dodge Fitness Center provides Columbia students, faculty, staff, alumni, and affiliates fitness opportunities and exercise space on the Morningside campus. Memberships are available at a competitive, reduced rate. Visit the Dodge website for information about membership options.

Bard Athletic Center is located in Bard Hall, Columbia University Medical Center. Memberships to this facility are available to Medical Center students, faculty, staff, post-doctoral research fellows, alumni, and employees of Presbyterian Hospital, NYS Psychiatric Institute, and Audubon Research Park. All eligible employees and their spouse/domestic partner may gain access to the facility and equipment by purchasing either Trip Tickets or an Annual Membership Package.

Employee Assistance Program
The EAP is a network of services, including short-term counseling and life coaching, to help faculty, staff, and their household members cope with everyday issues including stress, relationships, depression, and addiction. Humana's professional counselors are available 24 hours, 7 days a week at 888-673-1153.

Gym and Wellness Discounts are available for eligible employees through Humana Employee Assistance Program Spendless Discount Program Benefit. 

Columbia Dental Plan
Gym and Wellness Discounts are available for eligible employees through Aetna Columbia Dental Plan’s GlobalFit Benefit.

Wellness Coaching is a healthy lifestyle program available to Columbia University medical plan participants and dependents at no additional cost.  Work with a wellness coach telephonically with additional web-based support to help you eat better, move more, and lose weight.   

To learn more or to enroll, call United Healthcare at 800-232-9357 or visit this website.

RALLY is an engaging digital health experience that starts with a quick health survey to measure your overall health and then recommends simple activities designed to help improve your diet, fitness, and mood and can support weight loss. 

Rally is available through or visit

For more information or to learn if you are eligible, call United Healthcare at 800-232-9357.

External Resources Icon

External Resources

Looking for more? Here are resources outside of Columbia.

Visit the CDC’s website for further information about what counts or does not count as physical activity.

Join the Every Body Walk! Collaborative to spread the message that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week really can improve your overall health and prevent disease.

Get inspired with Move it Monday simple workouts, tips, and inspiration to help you incorporate physical activity into your weekly routine.

Access Shape Up NYC’s free, drop-in fitness program with locations across the five boroughs.

Smiling man holding gold medal.