Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
A comprehensive set of recommendations for people of all ages and physical conditions has been released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can help children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
Balintfy: The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are the most comprehensive of their kind. Acting Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson explains that the guidelines are based on the first thorough review of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than a decade.
Dr. Galson: The Physical Activity Guidelines that we just produced have specific amounts of physical activity that we're recommending for each age group, but it's fairly straightforward. There are different recommendations for kids and for most people up to age 65. But the bottom line of the message—so you don't have to memorize numbers—is that every American can get physical activity in their own way.
Balintfy: Dr. Galson recommends the publication "Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults" based on the guidelines. It spells out that adults gain substantial health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, and children benefit from an hour or more of physical activity a day. Dr. Richard Troiano at the National Cancer Institute adds that regular physical activity reduces the risk in adults of early death; coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, and colon and breast cancer.
Dr. Troiano: The strongest evidence for a benefit for physical activity is with colon cancer, where we see about a 30 percent reduction for people who are more active than those who are inactive. There's also a lot of research on breast cancer, where the average effect is about a 20 percent reduction. There's starting to be promising research that suggests there'll be reductions in endometrial and lung cancer.
Balintfy: Regular physical activity can also improve thinking ability in older adults and the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living. The recommended amount of physical activity in children and adolescents improves cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness as well as bone health, and contributes to favorable body composition. Dr. Ashley Wilder Smith, also at NCI, says that the guidelines are designed so people can easily fit physical activity into their daily plan and incorporate activities they enjoy.
Dr. Smith: An important factor is that for those people who are just starting, they should know that even moving toward that 60 minutes per week, one hour per week, has important benefits in increasing the length of their life and their quality of life. But again, as they move up in their activities, they will only see more benefits in their health.
Balintfy: The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans describe the types and amounts of physical activity that offer substantial health benefits to Americans. For details on the guidelines, visit www.health.gov/PAguidelines. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.