The US government's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced its first ever guidelines for physical activity for Americans that say
adults should have 2.5 hours of moderate physical aerobic exercise a week, and children should have an hour or more of physical activity a day.
The new HHS publication is titled "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"; it covers all ages, and it can be downloaded from the HHS website.
The guidelines emphasize that physical activity benefits everyone regardless of age or ethnic group and are designed so that people can easily incorporate physical activities that they enjoy into their daily lives.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said:
"It's important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a roadmap to include physical activity in their daily routine."
Leavitt said the evidence about the long term benefits of regular exercise is clear: it promotes health and reduces disease.
"The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain," said Leavitt.
Some of the benefits of regular physical activity listed in the guidelines include:
- Reduced risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Lower risk of depression, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer.
- Improved ability to think and get on with the tasks of daily living in older adults.
- At the levels recommended, adolescents and children can expect improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health and body composition.
The guidelines include the following advice:
For Children and Adolescents
At least one hour a day of moderate or vigorous aeorbic physical activity.
At least three days a week of vigorous physical activity.
Moderate physical activity includes: brisk walking, hiking, skateboarding and cycling.
Vigorous physical activity includes: cycling, jumping rope, running, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, field hockey and similar intensive sports.
Muscle-strengthening exercise is also recommended for this group, including rope climbing, doing sit-ups, tug of war, at least three days a week.
And for strengthening bone, this group should also do things like skipping, jumping rope and running.
At least 2.5 hours a week of moderate aerobic exercise, or 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity.
Moderate exercise includes: brisk walking, aqua aerobics, dancing, and general gardening.
Vigorous physical activity includes: race or power walking, jogging, running, lap swimming, hiking uphill and jumping rope.
Aerobic exercise should last a minimum of 10 minutes each time.
For added benefit, the HHS recommends adults do aerobic exercise moderately for a minimum of 5 hours a week or vigorously for 2.5 hours a week.
And for muscle-strengthening they should do weight training, push-ups, sit-ups, heavy gardening or carry heavy loads on two days a week at least.
This group should be doing the same as adults, if they can. If they have a chronic condition that stops them, they should be as close to the adult guideline as their condition allows.
Older adults at risk of falling should also do exercises to help maintain balance.
Expectant mothers should do at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical exercise a week while pregnant: and after delivery too, perhaps spread out during the week a bit more.
Pregnant women should talk to their doctor about how to adjust their regimen and stay healthy in their pregnancy and after delivery if they are used to doing vigorous exercise regularly and wish to continue.
where possible, adults with disabilities should do at least 2.5 hours of moderate, or 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous, aerobic exercise a week.
They should also do muscle-strengthening exercises that involve all the major muscle groups on at least two days a week, preferably more.
It is important for this group to avoid inactivity and to keep exercising regularly, even if not able to meet the guidelines.
"Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans."
US Department of Health and Human Services.
Published online on 7 October 2008.
Click here for downloadable versions of the guidelines.
Source: Journal abstract, JAMA.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD.