New Activity Guidelines: Get Up, Get Moving

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Good news: To enjoy real and lasting benefits from physical activity, you don’t have to exercise like you’re training for a triathlon. 

If you’re concerned about fitness and how to work it into your busy daily schedule – and find the motivation – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an encouraging message for you in its recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Start where you can. All physical activity adds up.

While the recommended amount of physical activity you should be getting hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years, since the previous edition of the guidelines, the evidence for the importance of physical activity has continued to grow. 

Today it’s clearer than ever that physical activity offers both immediate and long-term benefits for your well-being. From reducing anxiety and depression and improving sleep to lowering the risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer.

It’s also clear that as a nation we’re not scoring high marks when it comes to staying active. The guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity and engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week. 

But studies show that only around 20 percent of adults and adolescents in the U.S. are meeting this recommendation. 

On average, Americans spend more time sitting than our parents and grandparents did. And we burn fewer calories. 

This nationwide lack of activity has a poor effect on fiscal and physical health, driving up health care costs and increasing mortality rates. And the cost to each of us as individuals can mean a significant diminishment in quality of life and general well-being.

Today it’s clearer than ever that physical activity offers both immediate and long-term benefits for your well-being. From reducing anxiety and depression and improving sleep to lowering the risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer.

What’s New?

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While the national picture of fitness and activity isn’t as bright as we might wish, the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans strikes an encouraging note: Every little bit of activity we can add to our day helps. 

You can start where you are and enjoy benefits right away, and build from there. The 2008 guidelines had stated that only 10-minute bouts of physical activity counted toward meeting the requirements, but the new guidelines recognize that all activity counts. 

Here are more notable findings from the 2018 guidelines:

  • When you move more frequently, you can enjoy immediate physical benefits, such as reduced anxiety and blood pressure, improved quality of sleep, and improved blood sugar control. 
  • Longer-term benefits of more regular physical activity are wide-ranging and include improved brain health, reduced risk of eight kinds of cancer, reduced risk of falling injuries in older adults, and reduced risk of excessive weight gain.
  • Chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, depression, ADHD, and others, can be managed more effectively when we are more physically active.

What Can You Do? 

Getting the benefits of a more active life doesn’t require a great investment of time or money. You don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. Any kind of activity that gets your heart rate up and helps build muscle strength will help. 

Important new recommendations for adults include:

  • Moving more and sitting less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. If you sit less and do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity, your health will benefit. If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation, you’re working at moderate intensity. If you can say only a few words before having to take a breath, your activity is vigorous.
  • Engaging in moderate intensity aerobic activity 150 to 300 minutes each week (or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week). Ideally, you should spread your aerobic activity throughout the week. If you engage in physical activity beyond five hours a week, you can gain additional health benefits.
  • Doing muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
  • Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week during pregnancy and the postpartum period. If you were habitually engaged in vigorous aerobic activity or physically active before pregnancy, you can continue these activities during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

The new guidelines also offer advice for preschool children (who should be physically active throughout the day), adolescents (60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day), and older adults (follow the adult guidelines to the extent possible and include balance training). 

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.