Update on Physical Activity Guidelines

By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS

Are you sitting right now while you read this? Well, according to the federal government’s updated recommendations for physical activity, the next thing you should do is… Stand Up! The take-away message from this 10-year update of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is that any movement- anytime, anywhere, anyhow- offers health benefits.(1) The previous guidelines, originally published in 2008, recommended that physical activity of adults needed to occur in at least 10 minute bouts.(1) With this new update, the authors of these guidelines found that some physical activity is better than none, regardless of the time-frame of the activity.(1)

What does this guideline update translate to in real life? Easy changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the end of the parking lot to walk into work or while running errands, substituting your daily commute in your car with walking or biking alternatives if able, and taking that two minute lap around the office every hour if you have to sit at work, can all add up during your day to provide health benefits. These health benefits include improved sleep, improved blood sugar control, reduced anxiety, long-term cognitive benefits, and significantly lower risks of heart disease and certain cancers.

John and Josh bike commuting to and from work to get some daily dose of activity!

Here are the other specific key guidelines that were recommended for adults and older adults:

“Adults:
-Some physical activity is better than no activity (as discussed above).
-For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, OR 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
-Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
-Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

Older Adults:
The key guidelines for adults also apply to older adults. In addition, the following key guidelines are just for older adults:
-As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
-Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
-Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.
-When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.”(1)

150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity is just 22 minutes a week! Ideas to meet moderate-intensity activity that increases your resting heart rate include: walking, cycling, Nordic skiing, elliptical machine, high-intensity interval-training, and running. If you’re currently experiencing an injury and need help figuring out what you can do to get you on track with these guidelines for improved health benefits, call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our PTs!

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html. Accessed on November 15, 2018.