This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published its new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Much like the food pyramid offers advice on diet and nutrition, these guidelines provide recommendations on exercise and nutrition for people of all ages, sizes, fitness levels and health conditions. "It's important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a roadmap to include physical activity in their daily routine," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "The evidence is clear--regular physical activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases. The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain."
These are the first such comprehensive guidelines the department has created; they are the result of the first thorough review of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than 10 years. Here are the recommendations for each group.
- Kids and teens: One hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. Both groups should do muscle-strengthening activities (which might include sit-ups or rope-climbing) 3 days a week, and bone-building exercise (running, jumping) also 3 days a week.
- Adults: Two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity.
- Seniors or adults with disabilities: Same as younger adults, if physical fitness allows.
- Pregnant women: Two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity; women who are already very fit can usually continue their same levels of activity (but they should discuss their exercise routine with their doctor).
- People with chronic medical conditions: This group still benefits from physical activity; they should discuss an exercise plan with their health care provider.
Photo courtesy Rob George