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 cardio respiratory, 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
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
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