By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
- Recently published Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans asks us to aim for a target of 225 minutes of weekly moderate to vigorous physical activity
- A key change from prior recommendations is that even very small amounts of increased physical activity can have positive benefits, thus making it possible for everyone to achieve meaningful health gains
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services, a shocking 80% of US adults and adolescents are not physically active enough. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association and comes up with a simple conclusion that all of us should live by: move more, sit less.
Their final recommendations are based on a thorough and systematic literature review and include only those recommendations judged to have strong scientific support.
The core recommendations are unchanged from the previous version, placing a target of at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (such as running), at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or some combination of the two for adults. In addition, the guidelines say adults should aim to complete muscle-strengthening activities, such as resistance training or weight lifting, at least two days per week.
If you are a relatively sedentary person who currently gets very little exercise, it might seem pretty daunting to look at 225 minutes of exercise activity per week. But fear not, one key difference in the current guideline compared to the previous is a much more practical tone, recommending adults to simply “move more and sit less throughout the day,” and reminding them “some physical activity is better than none.”
These guidelines provide evidence that even very short bouts of physical activity are beneficial. Prior guidelines suggested that you had to perform at least 10 minutes duration of physical activity, but the current guidelines suggest that there is no minimum amount and that even very short duration activities such as climbing a flight of stairs can be helpful.
The updated recommendations also specify that physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day. I’ve posted a video recently showing a number of different ways in which you can put more activity and steps into your normal day.
Guidelines for older individuals are similar, although there is an emphasis also on balance exercises as part of a fall prevention strategy. Older adults may also need to customize their activities if they have any pre-existing impairments such as cardiopulmonary issues, or arthritis.
Children and adolescents should aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise per day. Recommendations are also provided for pregnant and postpartum women, with targets of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
The bottom line here is that movement matters, and we should aim to put as much movement into our typically sedentary days. Clearly those individuals who are the least physically active are going to benefit the most by even small to modest increases in their day-to-day physical activity. A guideline that I like to recommend to my patients is to try to be 10% more active next week than you were this week. You’ve got everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.