With the holiday season approaching, it is more important than ever to stay physically active. Not only will physical activity/exercising help to burn off the calories from all the delicious food, but it has also been proven to improve our long term health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, along with other health offices and organizations, have established a set of physical activity guidelines for all age groups to explain the benefits of physical activity and set a baseline for exercise.
Studies carried out by these organizations have proven that exercise creates healthy individuals, and healthy individuals living longer lives with less risk of chronic disease. Here is a list of the major outcomes of their combined research:
- Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.
- Some physical activity is better than none.
- For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.
- Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.
- Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
- Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
- The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.
- The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.
Children (ages 6 – 17)
The Guidelines recommend that children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. They suggest that children should participate in aerobic, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening activities on at least three days of the week.
- Aerobic activity- moderate to intense running, biking, or playing a sport
- Muscle- climbing trees, using playground equipment, and or resistance training depending on age and level of experience.
- Bone Strengthening- jumping, playing a sport, lifting weight if appropriate
Adults (ages 18 – 64)
The Guidelines for most men and women ages 18 – 64 are as follows:
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
- Or some combination of the two.
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise being described as an activity that increases both heart and breathing rate to some extent, and has an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of about 5 to 6 on a scale of 0 – 10.
Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise being described as an activity that increases ones heart and breathing rate, and has an RPE of about 7 to 8 on a scale of 0 – 10.
In addition, it is recommended that adults include muscle strengthening/ resistance training exercise that involves all the major muscles groups at least twice a week.
Older adults (aged 65+)
This age group has the same requirements as the younger adult group with only a few stipulations based on the capabilities of each older individual; if they have any chronic conditions or age related disabilities.
- When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow
- Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling
- Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness
- Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely
So during this holiday season, while you are enjoying the dinner spreads and desserts, don’t forget to stay as active as possible for your current and long term health!
By David McCalla
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines