Washington, D.C. —
The US government has come out with new advice for Americans about how much exercise they should get each week. The main message is: “Move more. Sit less.”
In 2008, the US government came out with its first set of exercise advice, called Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines were based on research by scientists into how people could stay healthy by being active.
Since 2008, scientists have learned more about how helpful exercise is. For example, they’ve learned that being active can make it much less likely that someone will suffer from illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. Exercise also makes people worry less, sleep better, and makes their brains work better.
Now, ten years later, the government has studied the science and come up with a new set of guidelines. The government suggests that everyone should keep moving during the day. Sitting for long periods of time has been shown to be unhealthy, so sitting less is also important. Much of the advice is the same as it was in 2008, but there are a few changes.
One change is that the government has added activity guidelines for children ages 3 to 5. This was not included in 2008, perhaps because younger children were usually very active anyway. But now, as young children spend more time looking at screens, they are moving less. The government says that children between 3 and 5 should have at least three hours a day of active play.
For children ages 6 to 17, the guidelines have not changed much since 2008. The government says children in this age group should get at least an hour of medium to very active movement every day. Most of this activity should be strong enough to raise the heart rate. Fast walking, running, and biking are examples of this kind of activity. Children should also do activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least three times a week. For example, climbing, jumping rope, or playing sports.
In 2008, the government said that adults should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of medium strength activity every week. But in spite of the advice, only 20% of Americans actually move that much. There’s good news for the 80% who aren’t moving enough: exercise will help them even more than it helps other people.
The other good news for adults is that scientists have learned that almost any kind of activity can be counted toward the exercise goal. In 2008, the government said people had to be active for ten minutes for it to count as exercise. Now studies have shown that even short periods of movement that raise the heart rate are helpful.
Adults should also do muscle strengthening exercises two times a week. For older adults, the government suggests doing balancing exercises to prevent falls.
The government is starting a program called “Move Your Way”, which they hope will help encourage Americans to get healthier by meeting these movement goals.