A guide to fitness
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a new edition with updated guidelines about the amount of physical activity people can safely do to stay healthy. The report includes guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 through 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and postpartum, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.
The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is based on the latest scientific evidence, which shows that physical activity brings health benefits on its own and in addition to other healthy habits like good nutrition. The report can be found in the department’s site, but its main findings include:
- Ages 3-5—The report recommends that children ages 3 through 5 should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development, so active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) should be encouraged so they have at least three hours of activity per day.
- Ages 6-17—The recommended amount of physical activity for youth ages 6 through 17 is the same. Each day, youths need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity to stay healthy. Most activity can be aerobic, like walking, running, or anything that makes the heart beat faster. They also need activities that make their muscles and bones strong, like climbing on playground equipment, playing basketball, and jumping rope. For youth, physical activity can help improve cognition, bone health, fitness, and heart health. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
- Most adults—For adults to get the most benefit from physical activity, it’s recommended that they do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least two days each week.
This recommendation is based on new evidence that shows a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks. New evidence shows that physical activity has immediate health benefits. For example, physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.
According to the report, for adults, physical activity helps prevent eight types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung). It reduces the risk of dementia—including Alzheimer’s disease—all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression. It also improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
Among older adults, physical activity also can lower the risk of falls and injuries from falls.
New evidence covered in the report shows that physical activity can help manage health conditions such as pain for those who suffer from osteoarthritis. Evidence outlined in the report, also shows that physical activity can reduce disease progression for such health conditions as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.