For the first time in ten years, the US government has updated its physical activity and exercise guidelines. While most of the recommendations remain the same, there are a few additions that could make it easier to reach your fitness goals.
That’s important because only about 20% of Americans are getting adequate exercise. In addition to the consequences for your own health, such inactivity costs the public about $117 billion a year in extra medical expenses.
If you want to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of staying fit, find out what these changes mean for you. You may discover that regular exercise is easier and more rewarding than you think!
One highlight of the new guidelines is an increased focus on overcoming the effects of prolonged sitting. While experts used to believe that exercise sessions needed to last for at least 10 minutes, they’re now convinced that any movement is preferable to being sedentary.
- Take more steps. If you live in an area where a car is essential, you can still spend more time on your feet. Park further away from your office and other destinations so you can walk the rest of the way. Pace around while you’re on the phone and climb the stairs whenever possible.
- Limit screen time. Spend more of your leisure hours playing sports instead of watching TV. If you want to keep up with your favorite show, do push-ups during the commercials.
- Liven up your desk job. Schedule a break at least once an hour to stand up and stretch. Go out at lunch to stroll through the park or attend a dance class.
The revised guidelines also pay more attention to how individual factors affect your workout. Make your routines safer and more productive by adapting them to your age, ability level, and any special conditions you may have.
- Start early. Preschoolers aged 3 to 5 now have their own recommendations. Their goal is at least 3 hours of daily activity. For children 6 to 17, the target remains at one hour including strength training and vigorous activities at least 3 times a week.
- Stick with it. For adults, the minimum range continues to be the equivalent of 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, as well as strength training at least 2 days a week. By adding in balance work, seniors can reduce their risk of falls and extend their ability to live independently.
- Measure intensity. How do you distinguish between light, moderate, and intense activity? You can use fancy monitors or simple tests. Light activity requires little perceived effort. Moderate activity makes it uncomfortable to sing, and intense activity makes it very difficult to speak.
- Talk with your doctor. Pregnancy, diabetes, and other conditions require their own strategies. Your physician can help you understand your individual needs.
- Aim higher. You can make big gains with just 3 hours of exercise a week, but additional efforts pay off. With more training, you can build greater aerobic capacity, strength, and flexibility. You may even extend your life.
- Think beyond weight. Physical activity helps with weight loss, but it can do a lot more. Think about being fit rather than feeling pressured to be thin.
- Celebrate your progress. Maybe the happiest news is that the new guidelines confirm the amazing results exercise can have. There’s strong evidence that physical activity can help prevent 8 types of cancer and other serious diseases, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance your overall quality of life.
Move more each day and design your workouts to suit your age and level of ability. Even modest amounts of exercise can help you to lead a longer and happier life.