For the first time in a decade, the U.S. government has updated its physical activity guidelines—under the caveat that less than a quarter of Americans currently meet exercise standards.
Under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new guidelines, adults are encouraged to participate in 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise every week with at least two days of strength training. Children aged six through age 17 require 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.
Only 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women and 20 percent of adolescents currently meet these recommendations, according to the Department of Health. Approximately $117 billion in annual healthcare costs and 10 percent of all premature mortality can be attributed to Americans' failure to do so, the department said.
“The new guidelines demonstrate that, based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving—anytime, anywhere and by any means that gets you active,” Dr. Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health, said in a Nov. 12 media release. “That’s why we need to come together as a nation to get Americans moving. When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better. The updated guidelines include evidence-based strategies that leaders across the nation can use to help Americans fit more physical activity into their daily lives.”
The guidelines illuminate several key benefits of regular exercise. In the short term, these benefits include reduced anxiety, reduced blood pressure, improved sleep quality and improved insulin sensitivity. The long-term benefits are improved brain health, reduced risk of eight types of cancer, reduced risk for fall-related injuries in older adults and reduced risk of excessive weight gain.
The guidelines also highlight the positive correlation between regimented exercise and symptomatic improvements in hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, depression, dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.
“The American Heart Association has long recognized physical activity as a proven way to lower chances of heart disease and live a longer, healthier life," Dr. Ivor Benjamin, president of the American Heart Association, said in the release. “Our organization is committed to developing programs and advocating for polices that make it easier for everyone to get more physically active, regardless of where they live. In 2008, the American Heart Association adopted the Physical Activity Guidelines and again we are proud to lead the call for health groups across the country to view these guidelines as beneficial to both public health and a worthy tool for clinicians.”
Several recent studies reinforce the Department of Health's concern over the issue of physical inactivity. In July, the the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics reported that only 23 percent of American adults meet leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) guidelines. In September, the World Health Organization reported that one in four of the world's adults do not get adequate exercise.
In June, The Cooper Institute reported that maintaining exercise routines can lower proneness to depression and heart disease-related death as one advances into middle age.
In October, American children received a "D-" rating in the latest physical activity report card released by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA).