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Achieving Health through Physical Activities

Being physically active is important to our overall health and well-being. For this reason, the US Health & Human Services Department recently issued guidelines for physical activities. These guidelines are based on the research conducted by the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group comprising of 13 leading experts in the field of exercise science and public health.

History of Physical Activity Guidelines

In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine issued guidelines on physical activities, which were supported by the Surgeon General. The recommendation called for accumulating moderate-intensity activities at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. These new guidelines affirm the recommendation in general, but allow more flexibility in achieving the activity levels required.

Physical activities & Health 

The study found that regular physical activities can improve health and prevent certain chronic diseases. Generally, the amount of benefits increases as the amount of exercises increases, especially at low level of activities. Some of the benefits can be observed in a few weeks, while others may take years to build up.
Observed benefits include:

  • Reducing premature death
  • Improving cardiorespiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal and mental health
  • Providing better handle on obesity and energy balance
  • Improving functional ability and preventing falls
  • Reducing risk on certain kinds of cancer

Guideline Summary

Here is a high-level summary of the guidelines. For the complete guidelines and related information, visit http://www.health.gov/.

Children & adolescents (aged 6 – 17): 1 hour or more physical activities every day. Specifically,

  • Spend most of the time on moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activities
  • Do vigorous-intensity activity at least 3 days per week
  • Include muscle- and bone-strengthening activity at least 3 days per week

Adults (aged 18-64)2 ½ hours per week of moderate-intensity, or 1 ¼ hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. Specifically,

  • Perform activity in 10- or more minute increments
  • Spread activities throughout the week
  • Double the amount of time to obtain additional benefits

Plus 2 or more days per week on muscle-strengthening activities, including all major muscle groups

Older adults (aged 65 or older): Follow guidelines for adult, as much as abilities allow. Specifically,

  • Include exercises to improve balance if needed
  • Consider existing health and fitness conditions when selecting activities

People with disability: Follow guidelines for respective age group, as abilities allow. Work with healthcare providers for recommendations as needed

Pregnant & Postpartum Women: For those who are not already active, 

  • At least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week
  • Spread activities throughout the week.

For those who are regularly active, continue with the activities

  • Provided that health conditions remain unchanged
  • Seek recommendation from healthcare providers on adjustments to the activities over time

 

Notes of Activity Levels:

  • Moderate refers to the level at which you can talk, but not sing, while performing the activity
  • Vigorous refers to the level at which you can only say a few words between pauses for breath

Other Considerations:

  • For beginners, start slow by choosing activities that fit your current fitness level, and increase the frequency, duration, and intensity over time.
  • For those with chronic conditions or health concerns, consult healthcare providers for recommendation