Americans Have a New Set of Physical Activity Guidelines

One of the main drivers of our overall health is physical activity. However, about 80 percent of U.S. adults and children are not getting enough exercise for optimal health. Now, a new set of guidelines indicates just how much exercise we should all be aiming for.

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CLEVELAND – About 80 percent of U.S. adults and children are not getting enough exercise for optimal health.

But just how much exercise do we really need?

For the first time in ten years, a new set of guidelines outlines just how much exercise we should all be aiming for.

“Researchers looked at various age groups – they looked at children – young children, school-aged children, adolescents, adults, older adults, and what they saw, was that in all age groups, exercise was beneficial for everyone,” said Haitham Ahmed, M.D., MPH, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the research. 

The new guidelines recommend that preschool children age 3-5 be active throughout the day.

Children and adolescents ages 6-17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise each day.

Adults should aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

The guidelines also said adults should supplement their weekly activity with two sessions of resistance muscle-building exercises.

Older adults should also incorporate balance enhancing exercises into their fitness regimen.

Dr. Ahmed said the health benefits of physical activity include a reduced risk of death from heart disease, heart-related events, high blood pressure, type-two diabetes, high cholesterol, and various cancers.

And the positive effects of exercise extend beyond the traditional heart-healthy benefits. The research also shows that increased physical activity can improve cognition, sleep, and reduce anxiety, as well as the risk of depression and dementia.

While the recommendations may seem overwhelming to someone who is not physically active, Dr. Ahmed said even a little bit of exercise has some benefit. 

“Even just minimal amounts of exercise is better than nothing,” he said. “If you just go up an extra three flight of stairs per day; during the morning, at your lunch break, in the evening; over a long period of time that really adds up.” 

Dr. Ahmed said even those who have a family history of heart disease can still alter their risk significantly through good health habits such as eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.

“A lot of research shows that even if you have a family history; you have some things that are going against you, you can still reduce your risk by up to 80 percent,” he said. “While you can never completely get your risk down to zero percent, there are things that are within your control, such as exercise, and you can really alter the chances of having a negative outcome in the future.”

Complete results of the research and guidelines can be found in JAMA.

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