Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

October 18, 2020

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Current Recommendations for Physical Activity  

In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services released the first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for American. Similar to the way the government recommends we get certain amounts of various nutrients, the government also recommends that we get different amounts of physical activity at different stages of life. Today, I will be going over the current recommendations for adults age 18 - 65.  

Before I get into the recommendations, I want to explain what physical activity is. I’m sure when someone says, “physical activity” or “exercise”, your mind automatically goes to the gym, or a park where people are participating in very strenuous activity that leaves them feeling completely exhausted. But this is not the way that physical activity and exercise are viewed in the health and wellness field. It may come as a surprise, but physical activity is viewed in a much simpler way in the field. Physical activity is just body movement. Just getting up and moving your body around. Even better, moving your body in whatever ways that feel most comfortable to you. These terms can also be used interchangeably. This body movement could be achieved by doing regular chores around the house, walking the dog, gardening, hiking, going for a run, doing yoga; the list could go on and on.  

Now that I have clarified what physical activity really is, I can get back to the physical activity guidelines. There are some guidelines for adults to follow:  

  1. Sit less and move more. Some sort of body movement is better than none, no matter how small it may feel or be. Even if you achieve a small amount of body movement over the course of the day, you can still feel small health benefits over time.  

  2. For substantial health benefits, adults should aim for 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity activity per week. For reference, any body movement is considered moderate-intensity if you can still talk (with very mild discomfort) while you do it. For vigorous-intensity, recommendations are set at 75 minutes to 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week. Anything that is considered vigorous-intensity allows you to only speak a few words at a time during activity. Again, this activity can be any form of body movement or physical activity.  

  3. Additional health benefits can be achieved if you participate in 300 minutes (5 hours) or more per week of moderate-intensity activity.  

  4. Adults should also participate in muscular strength training 2 times or more per week that involve all major muscle groups.  

Following these key recommendations is important to maintaining long-term health and can even improve emotional health. Even though physical activity can be doing house chores or walking the dog, it is still important to consult with your doctor first before engaging in a new physical activity or body movement plan.  

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