For the first time in a decade, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new set of physical activity guidelines recommending what Americans should do to remain healthy.
Let’s take a look at what the new guidelines are, why they matter, and what you need to know to achieve improved health through these physical activity recommendations.
The last time the US issued physical activity guidelines was 2008. Why the HHS needed to issue new guidelines was the fact that Americans are falling far below the guidelines set a decade ago.
Currently, only 26% of men, 19% of women and 20% of adolescents actually meet the 2008 guidelines. Therefore, averaging among all groups, roughly only about 20% of Americans get the amount of exercise they need.
Workers in the US today burn about 140 fewer calories, on average, as compared to those in 1960. This is primarily due to the fact that there has been a significant shift in sedentary office jobs making up a large part of the American workforce.
Americans are less active than ever before and it’s taking a toll on their health. The lack of activity is contributing to nearly $117 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to the HHS.
The HHS felt it was urgent to communicate to Americans that they simply need to start moving more and sitting last.
The newly issued 2018 guidelines for physical activity by the HHS says that engaging in any amount of physical activity can result in immediate benefits to one’s health. The benefits of increasing physical activity include: Reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure, improvements in the quality of sleep and improvements to insulin sensitivity.
It’s well documented that sitting for prolonged periods is detrimental to one’s health, and physical activity can help offset the damage that being sedentary can cause.
The amount of recommended exercise hasn’t changed. Adults still need a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. This boils down to approximately 22 minutes of movement daily. While it’s advisable to engage in aerobic activity, the old goals recommended ten minutes of aerobic activity per day. But under the new guidelines – the main objective is to simply to move and get your heart rate up – and this can be done even by walking. Basically, everything counts.
The guidelines also recommend that adults engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days or more per week.
You can read the full HHS guidelines here in an article titled: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.”