December Health Focus

New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Last month, the federal government issued updated recommendations for physical activity for the first time in a decade. The message is a strong call for Americans – even those as young as 3 – to get up and get moving, as regular physical activity generates a wide range of improved health outcomes.

Overall recommendations are generally the same as they were with the 2008 guidelines: Adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. However, only about 20% of Americans are currently meeting this goal.

That lack of exercise adds up to about $117 billion in annual health costs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Here is a summary of conclusions from this updated report:

  • Physically active individuals sleep better, feel better and function better. Even a single episode of activity can produce better brain functioning, including attention, academic performance and memory, and positively influence health indicators such as blood pressure. Being physically active reduces the risk of depression and anxiety, and active people perceive that their quality of life is improved. Regular physical activity makes daily life tasks easier, especially as we age.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of a large number of diseases and conditions. These revised guidelines expand the list of such diseases and conditions, including obesity, dementia, risk of falls, breast and colon cancer. Even for those individuals who already have a chronic disease, regular activity can reduce the chance of developing a new condition.
  • Benefits of physical activity can be achieved in a variety of ways and in very short bouts. For adults, the goal is still a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity. The report indicates that individuals can attain positive health gains by increasing their physical activity, even if they do not reach these goals. Everything counts – even a walk up a flight of stairs or extra steps from your parking space to a store entrance. The overarching goal is simply to reduce sedentary behavior and increase activity.
  • For the first time, the updated report recommends physical activity to promote health benefits to children as young as age 3. The committee acknowledged substantial new evidence that shows this age group also experiences a reduced risk of weight gain and improved bone health with early physical activity.

The bottom line? Get moving! We at the Y are here to help you find ways to increase your daily physical activity and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.

Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.