Everyone benefits from moving more. Physical activity is one of the most important and beneficial behaviors for your health across the lifespan. The newest version of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was released recently. It has been updated with more details about the health benefits of physical activity and recommendations for each age group, from preschoolers, children, and teens through adulthood, and old age, and for people who are pregnant, have chronic diseases or have disabilities. The Move Your Way campaign aims to make it easier to get a little more active and make small changes that can add up to big health benefits!
Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Any amount of physical activity can have health benefits. Research has found that being physically active can improve your health both immediately and over the long term.
- Just one session of physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity. It makes you feel good mentally and physically!
- Regular physical activity helps manage health conditions. Physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, help manage high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve mental functioning for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Being physically active also helps prevent chronic conditions. Its long-term benefits include improved brain health, reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, reduced risk for fall-related injuries in older adults, and reduced risk of excessive weight gain.
New Physical Activity Recommendations
For children 6-17, the guidelines for 60 minutes of activity each day are the same. And for adults and older adults, we should continue to aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week along with two days of muscle-strengthening activities. But this update includes new recommendations, too.
Preschool-aged children (3 – 5 years old) should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development with a goal of 3 hours of activity per day. Parents and caregivers should encourage active play throughout the day and less screen time.
In addition to age-related guidelines, there are recommendations for people with different health conditions. Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth benefit from regular physical activity and should maintain their current level of physical activity. If she is not currently active, she should work with her health care provider to find safe ways to be active.
Likewise, people with chronic health conditions or disabilities should aim to be physically active, too. They should work with their health care providers to find appropriate activities that are safe and effective for their health needs. In general, pregnant or recently pregnant women and people with chronic conditions or disabilities should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
New Guidelines for Inactivity
Any amount of physical activity is beneficial. We should limit the amount of time spent sedentary (inactivity). The previous guidelines only counted physical activity that lasted at least 10 minutes in a session. More recent research has shown that even very short sessions of activity are better than inactivity, so there is no longer a minimum duration for physical activity to “count” towards the weekly amount. This is designed to encourage us to move more and sit less throughout the day. Right now, the evidence isn’t clear on a specific limit on daily sedentary behavior or recommendations on how often to break up sedentary behavior throughout the day. So the takeaway message is any amount or type of physical activity can help offset these risks of inactivity.
Ways to Move More
Take a few minutes to use the activity Planner for adults or the interactive graphic for parents to see how your current routine stacks up against the guidelines.
These tools are great for planning how to meet the recommendations using your favorite ways to be physically active. For example, I play volleyball twice a week for an hour and do a few sessions of yoga for muscle strengthening. But you might enjoy dancing, walking the dog, and following along to our Move More, Virginia! workout videos for muscle strengthening. There is no right way to move more, you just need to do it in a way that fits your lifestyle.
- For busy folks, think about breaking up your activity sessions over the course of the day. It might be hard to find a 30-60 minute block of time, but you can probably fit in 3 10-15 minute sessions. You could start the day off with a light workout in the morning before heading to work, taking a short walk during your lunch break, and doing a few bodyweight exercises before starting on dinner.
- Vigorous intensity activity is also a time-saver for busy people. Because you’re working twice as hard, you get the same benefits in half as much time. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one way to add more vigorous activity to your physical activity routine.
- Having a workout buddy can help give you some motivation and accountability if you struggle to commit to being active. Ask a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member to join you. Knowing they’re counting on you makes it harder to blow off your workout. And keeping up with each other can help you both push a little harder than you would by yourself.
- If you’re not currently active, this post has a lot of strategies and sample plans for building up to 150 minutes of activity each week.
How will you move more your way? What are some reasons why you have struggled to be active in the past? How has being active changed how you feel or improved your health? We’d love to hear from you and help you make a plan to move more for better health, now and in the future.