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What Are the Physical Activity Guidelines?

Physical Activity GuidelinesIn November 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, which was the first update to the previous 2008 physical activity report. Based on an extensive review of the research over a decade, the recent paper includes valuable recommendations and information about exercise.

We realize that you may not have heard of these physical activity guidelines. The IDEA Health & Fitness Association published a valuable overview, and we’ve summarized the major findings. Here’s what you should know to help keep you healthy.

Physical Activity Guidelines

  1. Get moving 75-300 minutes per week.

Of course, this may not be you, but the recommendations to stay healthy indicate that adults need 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity – or an equivalent combination. If you exercise 3 times per week, that amounts to a minimum of 25-50 minutes per day; if you work out 5 times per week, that is at least 15-30 minutes per day. Adults also are to do muscle strengthening exercises on 2 or more days per week, hitting the major muscle groups with 8-12 reps to fatigue, and at least one set for each muscle group.

The number of Americans meeting those guidelines is quite low: just 19% of women and 26% of men. Although you may already be a regular exerciser, how does your regimen align with these recommendations? And can you encourage others who aren’t as active to start exercising regularly?

  1. High-intensity exercise improves cardiovascular health.

Higher intensity workouts result in greater gains in cardiovascular health than steady-state sessions. But you don’t have to do high intensity exercise daily, as it increases risk of injury. Just add it into your routine for more benefits.

  1. Aim for at least 3 workout sessions weekly.

Research shows that people who exercised only 1-2 days per week did not experience reductions in cardiovascular mortality, compared with those who did the same volume of exercise over 3 or more days per week.

  1. Incorporate balance training, flexibility and mindful exercise.

While there are no specific recommended amounts, the report points to the value of balance training (3 times per week to prevent falls), stretching and mindful exercise like yoga or Tai Chi in a comprehensive fitness regimen.

  1. Counting steps can make a difference.

If you’re a Fitbit or activity tracker user, you’re in luck. Counting steps can boost physical activity just by increasing awareness of how much you are moving. While there isn’t a specific recommendation for the number of daily steps, due to various walking intensities and paces, keeping track helps keep you moving.

  1. Any amount of exercise improves quality of life.

The great news is that every little bit counts. Even just 5-10 minutes of physical activity can help reduce blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and anxiety, for example. While the ultimate goal is to hit the recommended physical activity guidelines, anything is better than nothing, and it all adds up.

  1. Exercise is critical to weight management.

Perhaps no big surprise here, but studies show a significant correlation between greater physical activity and less weight gain in adults, so it’s important to get moving and stay moving for a lifetime.

  1. Physical activity is essential for those 65 and older.

Evidence points to multiple benefits of 150-300 minutes of exercise weekly in the 65 and up population. Workouts should target stamina, balance, strength, gait speed and cognitive skills.

  1. Children need to move more.

Again, not a shocker in our screen-addicted society, but children need at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

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