America updates its physical activity guidelines, with one important change

Maricruz Casares
Noviembre 13, 2018

If you're sitting down while reading this, stand up.

Bottom Line: Updated physical activity guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tell Americans to get moving, and for how long, with aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. As before, children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years should engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day, reported Richard Troiano, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues in the JAMA paper.

The recommendations added a target of 3 hours of physical activity per day for children ages 3 through 5 years. In the United States alone, an estimated $117 billion in annual health care costs and one-tenth of early deaths are associated with a lack of exercise.

Moderate-intensity activity includes walking briskly, riding a bike on level ground with few hills and playing doubles tennis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while muscle-strengthening activity includes lifting weights, yoga and "heavy gardening", such as shoveling.

The most important message from those new guidelines "is that the greatest health benefits accrue by moving from no, to even small amounts of, physical activity, especially if that activity is of moderate (e.g., brisk walking) or vigorous (e.g., jogging and running) intensity", wrote Paul Thompson, MD, of Hartford Hospital in CT and Thijs Eijsvogels, PhD, of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in an accompanying editorial.

"In 2008, the American Heart Association adopted the Physical Activity Guidelines and again we are proud to lead the call for health groups across the country to view these guidelines as beneficial to both public health and a worthy tool for clinicians", Ivor Benjamin, M.D., FAHA, American Heart Association president said in a press release. New evidence has also shown a link to immediate health benefits including a reduction in blood pressure and anxiety and improvements in quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.

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Physical activity is good for you - you function better and feel better when you move your body, and health authorities generally agree on how much movement you need. "Individuals performing the least physical activity benefit most by even [a] modest increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity".

Exercise can also improve cognition in those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or dementia, the guidelines say, and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Conclusions: Health professionals and policymakers should promote awareness of the updated guidelines and support efforts to implement programs, practices and policies to facilitate increased physical activity to improve the health of the US population.

Today, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) would like to support the first-ever revision to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines), underscoring the essential role they play in setting the bar for a more physically active nation.

The American Heart Association announced Monday that it would adopt the government's exercise standards.

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