New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

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In 2008, Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was first published to help us better understand how much and what types of physical activity we need to participate in to be healthy. The definition of physical activity is “any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy”. That includes anything from cleaning the house or yardwork to walking, biking, or yoga.
 
In November 2018, the first update to those guidelines was published and includes more science-based information for more specific ages and populations. In the last 10 years, research has shown additional health benefits of physical activity related to brain health, reduced cancer risk, fall-related injuries, sleep, and effects on chronic conditions. Guidance was also added for preschool children 3 to 5 years of age. One guideline was removed for adults indicating physical activity should occur in segments of at least 10 minutes. The new guidelines for preschool-aged children emphasizes they should be active throughout the day. Adults caring for these children should encourage a variety of active play.
 
For older children and adolescents, it is important for them to participate in age-appropriate activities they enjoy and offer a variety of intensity. Children and adolescents 6 to 17 years of age should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. At this intensity, they should notice their heart beating faster and breathing harder than normal. Most of the time should be aerobic physical activity, which includes walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and dancing at least 3 days per week. Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening are also important parts of physical activity. This age group should include these types of activities as part of their 60 minutes of daily physical activity at least 3 days a week. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include playing on the monkey bars, climbing walls (or trees), tug-of-war, using resistance bands, or lifting weights. Anything producing a force on the bones promoting bone growth and strength like running, jumping, gymnastics, and basketball are examples of bone-strengthening activities.
 
Adults should move more and sit less every day. Any physical activity counts and is better than doing nothing! For optimal health benefits, strive for 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Even more benefits result if these guidelines are exceeded. It is important to do muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week. In addition to these guidelines, older adults should include balance training, for example tai chi, to their weekly physical activity. Anyone with a chronic condition, especially older adults, should check with their health care provider before starting any new physical activity and strive to be as physically active as their condition allows.
 
Finally, this publication includes guidelines for safe physical activity to reduce the risk of injuries. After checking with a health care provider, gradually increase physical activity – previously inactive adults should “start low and go slow”. Start with low-intensity activities and increase the time and frequency of the activities slowly. It is important to use appropriate safety gear, depending on the type of physical activity, to prevent injury.
 
For more ideas on ways to be active, go to https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/ways-to-be-active/index.html. Remember, every little bit counts!
 

Resources:
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans - https://health.gov/paguidelines/default.aspx
 

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