Any amount of physical activity — even two minutes– can add up to huge benefits for your immediate and long-term health, according to the new edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Previously, the guidelines stated that unless physical activity lasted 10 minutes or longer, it didn’t count toward a person’s recommended weekly activity goals. But research shows any small amount of activity provides a solid contribution to a person’s health, according to guidelines unveiled at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.
“Physical activity is about finding opportunities to add movement throughout the day as part of a bigger commitment to healthy living,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Inactivity causes 10 percent of premature mortality in the United States. That means if we can just get 25 percent of inactive people to be active and meet the recommendations, almost 75,000 deaths would be prevented in the United States.”
Only 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women, and 20 percent of teenagers currently get their recommended weekly amount of physical activity, according to HHS.
The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines came out a decade ago, in 2008.The new edition also highlights a broader array of short- and long-term benefits from physical activity, all based on scientific evidence:
- Just a single bout of physical activity can sharpen your mind, reduce your anxiety, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and strengthen your body’s ability to convert blood sugar into energy.
- Regular physical activity can improve your brain health, reduce your risk of eight different forms of cancer, and lower your risk for excess weight gain.
- Chronic health conditions improved by physical activity include osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression.
- Exercise also helps improve brain function in people with dementia, multiple sclerosis, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
The weekly recommended amount of activity remains the same for adults — at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, ballroom dancing, water aerobics or pulling weeds, according to the AHA. Vigorous activity can involve running, swimming laps, bicycling fast, aerobic dancing or working a shovel or hoe in the garden.
The guidelines now recommend that children aged to 5 be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development — at least three hours a day. Kids aged 6 through 17 are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Exercise is the best and cheapest prescription in the world, but most people don’t want to fill it.
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