For the first time in a decade, the US government has revamped its guidelines for recommended physical activity suggesting associated health benefits could be easier to achieve than previously thought.
The authors note that even a single episode of physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms, improve cognition, and reduce blood pressure, among other things. That being said, a majority of Americans simply aren’t exercising enough.
The review found just 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women, and 20 percent of adolescents are getting enough physical activity, potentially costing them normal growth and development while increasing the risk of many chronic diseases. In the US alone, an estimated $117 billion in annual health care costs and one-tenth of early deaths are associated with a lack of exercise.
“Physical activity fosters normal growth and development and can make people feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases,” wrote the authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Preschool-aged children between 3 and 5 years old should be physically active throughout the day while children and teens ages 6 through 17 should do at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.
Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise every week, or 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity that boosts endurance training such as brisk walking, running, or cycling. On two or more days a week, adults should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities into their workout regimes, such as weight lifting or resistance training.
Pregnant and post-partum women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio a week.
Older adults should do physical activity that encompasses a variety of training by incorporating balancing work – such as lunges or walking backward – to prevent dangerous falls into their weekly workouts, alongside aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Those with chronic conditions or disabilities should follow the key guidelines to the best of their ability.
“[The] recommendations emphasize that moving more and sitting less will benefit nearly everyone,” wrote the authors in the 2018 edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. “Individuals performing the least physical activity benefit most by even [a] modest increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.”
Bottom line: any workout is better than no workout.
“Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none,” wrote the authors, adding that “virtually everyone benefits from increased activities" and “even short episodes of small amounts of physical activity are beneficial.”