Earlier this month, HHS issued an expanded second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The updated guidelines contain a wealth of new and updated information on the benefits of regular physical activity and should serve as a valuable resource for family physicians and other health care professionals to share with their patients.
One of the guidelines' recurring messages is that Americans need to get moving.
"The new guidelines demonstrate that based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving -- anytime, anywhere and by any means that gets you active," said Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for health, in a news release. "When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better.
"The updated guidelines include evidence-based strategies that leaders across the nation can use to help Americans fit more physical activity into their daily lives."
Another message is that not enough Americans are physically active. According to the second edition of the guidelines, although recent evidence suggests some improvement in physical activity levels among American adults, only 26 percent of adult men, 19 percent of adult women, and 20 percent of adolescents actually meet the physical activity levels outlined in the guidelines.
Whereas the original guidelines were designed primarily for adults, the second edition provides evidence-based guidance for increasing physical activity in people as young as age 3 years. A chapter on physical activity in children and adolescents recommends that preschool-aged children (ages 3 to 5) should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development, and that caregivers should encourage active play that includes a variety of physical activities.
The second edition also provides new evidence of the benefits of physical activity in people of all genders and age groups, including
Finally, the second edition eliminates a recommendation that appeared in the 2008 guidelines that moderate to vigorous activity should occur in bouts of 10 minutes or longer. An HHS advisory committee that analyzed the scientific information on physical activity found there was not enough evidence available to support the 10-minute recommendation and concluded that bouts of any duration contribute to the health benefits associated with physical activity.
In other areas, the updated guidelines remain virtually unchanged.
For children and adolescents ages 6 through 17, the guidelines recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Most physical activity should be aerobic, but the guidelines also recommend activities that strengthen muscles and bones.
For adults, the guidelines' first recommendation encourages people to move more and sit less throughout the day, because any type of moderate or vigorous activity will produce some health benefits. The guidelines also recommend between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity each week. Adults who engage in physical activities beyond those ranges are likely to gain additional benefits, such as reduced cancer risk and reduced risk of weight gain. In addition, adults are encouraged to perform muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days per week.
Recommendations for adults 65 and older are largely the same as those for adults overall, with some important exceptions. For example, older adults are encouraged to try multicomponent physical activities to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. Older adults who can't perform at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity because of a chronic condition are encouraged to be as physically active as their condition will allow. They should determine their own effort level and understand whether and how their condition affects their ability to safely perform physical activities, say the guidelines.
The guidelines offer several strategies to increase physical activity levels across all age groups that health care professionals, including family physicians, can share with their patients. For individuals, this includes identifying health benefits that are personally important to them and setting personal goals. For health care professionals, strategies include talking with patients and advising them on how to safely perform physical activities, as well as partnering with local agencies to make physical activity programs available at the community level.
The guidelines also advocate that public health departments spread the message about the benefits of physical activity and monitor communities' progress on providing places where people can be physically active.
To promote the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines, HHS also launched a campaign called Move Your Way. The campaign provides interactive tools, videos and print materials that health care professionals can share with patients. The campaign offers posters and fact sheets, available in both English and Spanish, that family physicians can display in their offices and distribute to patients to encourage them to become more physically active.
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