Adults gain substantial health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, and children benefit from an hour or more of physical activity a day, according to the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The recommendations for people of all ages and physical conditions was released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Public Health Sciences Division's Dr. Anne McTiernan was one of the 13-member advisory committee that conducted the first thorough review of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than a decade and produced guidelines that should enable people to easily fit physical activity into their daily lives.
"Two and a half hours of physical activity per week may not sound like a lot, but many people are challenged to make the time," said McTiernan, who chaired the chapter on cancer. Her advice, “Make your daily life more active. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, ride a stationary bike or do conditioning exercises while watching TV, or take a walk at lunch.”
According to the report—which was the most comprehensive of its kind—physical activity benefits children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
“It’s important for all Americans to be active," said Mike Leavitt, HHS secretary. “The evidence is clear, regular physical activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases. The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain.”
Regular physical activity reduces the risk in adults of early death; coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. It can improve thinking ability in older adults and the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living. The recommended amount of physical activity in children and adolescents improves cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness as well as bone health, and contributes to favorable body composition.
Key guidelines by group:
Children and Adolescents
Women during pregnancy
Adults with disabilities
People with chronic medical conditions
For more information about the “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” visit www.health.gov/paguidelines.