Family riding bicycles

Experts agree: More activity, exercise mean better health

Last week, the federal government came out with new recommendations for exercise and health. It is the first update issued by the government on exercise in 10 years.

A unique new position of the proposal by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is that exercise, even in small amounts, can make a big difference. “Sit less and move more. Whatever you do, it all matters,” said Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for the HHS, in a recent interview.

The new guidelines are much more flexible. Previously, they said exercise should take place in blocks of at least 10 minutes. Not anymore. Even brief periods of activity, including housework, can count toward the overall daily total.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also states ongoing concern that the minimum goals of exercise are not being met by 80 percent of Americans, and almost 40 percent of Americans are obese.

The new exercise guidelines (for adults) cite 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity per week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-to-intense activity per week. Additionally, two days per week should include muscle and bone strengthening activities. For older adults, balance-improving work should occur weekly, too. These are goals consistent with the 2008 recommendations.

Moderate-to-intense activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Raking leaves
  • Vacuuming
  • Playing volleyball
  • Casual swimming
  • Casual biking
  • Dancing
  • Softball

Vigorous activities include:

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Intense fitness class
  • Intense biking
  • Intense swimming
  • Basketball
  • Intense dancing
  • Carrying heavy groceries
  • Active soccer

Recommendations for kids and teens (ages 6-17) call for at least 60 minutes of intense or vigorous activity daily, combined with three days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises. New to the guidelines are exercise recommendations for preschoolers, ages three to five. The report calls for three hours of daily activity for this group too. Activity means active play.

One parent reports a successful way to pull children away from screen time is to structure active play with other children and in groups settings. Have their friends over and let them play without devices/screens.

Experts state that overweight preschoolers often continue to be overweight children, and the continued obesity becomes harder and harder to correct over a lifetime. The health status and activity level of small children, unchecked, can chart a course for decades.

The report also has exercise guidelines for pregnancy, for the post-partum period, and with disabilities as detailed in the reference provided below.

Doctors say that since the 2008 report, we have come to confirm and understand more than ever how vitally important movement and exercise are for our overall health benefits. Increased movement and exercise show improvements in:

  • Sleep
  • Cancer prevention (especially bladder, colon, esophagus, stomach, breast, endometrium, kidney and lung)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression and post-partum depression
  • Emotional health
  • Bone health
  • Cognitive function and academic success
  • Balance and fall prevention in older adults
  • Diabetes
  • Weight control and healthy weight maintenance

Researchers report that every year in the United States alone, we spend over one billion dollars in healthcare costs related to the problems of inactive lifestyles. Experts say that even exercising one day a week can have profound health effects.

“Being physically active,” the guidelines reports, “is one of the most important things people of all ages can do to improve their overall health.”

Remember, a journey of 100 miles begins with a single step. Talk to your doctor or a physical fitness expert to get started on an exercise program today. Think about including the whole family. Starting at just a few minutes a day and building on that foundation can have fantastic quality-of-life and health benefits for you and your family.

 

Reference: The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, bit.ly/2P2HlRz

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