Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Adults gain substantial health benefits from two and a half hours a week
of moderate aerobic physical activity, and children benefit from an hour
or more of physical activity a day, according to the new Physical
Activity Guidelines for Americans. The comprehensive set of
recommendations for people of all ages and physical conditions was
released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The guidelines are designed so people can easily fit physical activity
into their daily plan and incorporate activities they enjoy.

Physical activity benefits children and adolescents, young and
middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and
ethnic group, the report said.

"It's important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a
roadmap to include physical activity in their daily routine," HHS
Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "The evidence is clear -- regular physical
activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and
reduces the risk of many diseases. The more physically active you are,
the more health benefits you gain."

Regular physical activity reduces the risk in adults of early death;
coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes,
colon and breast cancer, and depression. It can improve thinking ability
in older adults and the ability to engage in activities needed for daily
living. The recommended amount of physical activity in children and
adolescents improves cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness as well as
bone health, and contributes to favorable body composition.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are the most
comprehensive of their kind. They are based on the first thorough review
of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than a
decade. A 13-member advisory committee appointed in April 2007 by
Secretary Leavitt reviewed research and produced an extensive report.

Key guidelines by group are:

Children and Adolescents -- One hour or more of moderate or vigorous
aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous intensity physical
activity at least three days a week. Examples of moderate intensity
aerobic activities include hiking, skateboarding, bicycle riding and
brisk walking. Vigorous intensity aerobic activities include bicycle
riding, jumping rope, running and sports such as soccer, basketball and
ice or field hockey. Children and adolescents should incorporate
muscle-strengthening activities, such as rope climbing, sit-ups, and
tug-of war, three days a week. Bone-strengthening activities, such as
jumping rope, running and skipping, are recommended three days a week.

Adults -- Adults gain substantial health benefits from two and one half
hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or one
hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Walking briskly,
water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening are examples of
moderate intensity aerobic activities. Vigorous intensity aerobic
activities include racewalking, jogging or running, swimming laps,
jumping rope and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. Aerobic
activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. For
more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic
physical activity to five hours a week moderate-intensity or two and one
half hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
Adults should incorporate muscle strengthening activities, such as
weight training, push-ups, sit-ups and carrying heavy loads or heavy
gardening, at least two days a week.

Older adults -- Older adults should follow the guidelines for other
adults when it is within their physical capacity. If a chronic condition
prohibits their ability to follow those guidelines, they should be as
physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. If they are
at risk of falling, they should also do exercises that maintain or
improve balance.

Women during pregnancy -- Healthy women should get at least two and one
half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week during
pregnancy and the time after delivery, preferably spread through the
week. Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous aerobic activity
or who are highly active can continue during pregnancy and the time
after delivery, provided they remain healthy and discuss with their
health care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.

Adults with disabilities -- Those who are able should get at least two
and one half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, or one hour and
15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. They should incorporate
muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups two or
more days a week. When they are not able to meet the guidelines, they
should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities
and should avoid inactivity.

People with chronic medical conditions -- Adults with chronic conditions
get important health benefits from regular physical activity. They
should do so with the guidance of a health care provider.

For more information about the "Physical Activity Guidelines for
Americans," visit www.hhs.gov or www.health.gov/paguidelines.

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