Practice Guidelines

Physical Activity: Updated Recommendations from HHS


Am Fam Physician. 2019 Jul 1;100(1):58-59.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Key Points for Practice

• Adults should perform 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

• Any increase in activity is beneficial for health, especially for those under the target range.

• Evidence for the benefits of physical activity for weight gain, adiposity, and bone health exists for children as young as three years.

• Increasing physical activity in older adults can help them maintain independence by reducing cognitive decline and falls.

• Physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety and improves sleep quality.

From the AFP Editors

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the first Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommended that adults perform 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. More than 10 years later, only 50% of U.S. adults attain this level, and 30% report less than 10 minutes per week. This is improved from 2008, when nearly 40% of adults reported minimal physical activity. HHS recently published updated recommendations on physical activity based on a systematic review of the effect of physical activity on health. The committee addressed 38 questions and 104 subquestions and graded the evidence based on consistency and quality of the research.

Inactive people can achieve substantial health benefits by increasing their activity level, even if they do not reach the target range. For those who perform little to no moderate to vigorous physical activity, substituting light-intensity physical activity for sedentary behaviors reduces the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and mortality, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. In people whose amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity is below the target range of 150 to 300 minutes per week, even small increases in moderate-intensity physical activity provide health benefits, and there is no threshold that must be exceeded to achieve these benefits.

For any given increase in moderate

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Coverage of guidelines from other organizations does not imply endorsement by AFP or the AAFP.

This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, Editor-in-Chief.

A collection of Practice Guidelines published in AFP is available at



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