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Takeaways From the New 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Updated May 12, 2019
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Nikki Prosch

SDSU Extension Health & Physical Activity Field Specialist

Written collaboratively by Nikki Prosch and Mariah Reil.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans offer evidence-based recommendations to help us work toward optimum health via physical activity. Recently, the second edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans were released. Overall the recommended 150+ minutes of aerobic (walking, biking) physical activity each week and at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening (weight training, resistance training) activity per week remained the same for adults. Additionally, the recommendation of 60 minutes per day for youth aged 6-17 stayed consistent. So what is new in the guidelines? Here are some of the key takeaways from the updated guidelines.

Move More, Sit Less

One of the key recommendations in the 2018 guidelines is for adults to move more and sit less. Research shows that the more time adults spend in sedentary activity (i.e. sitting), the greater the risk of adverse health outcomes (heart disease, high blood pressure, mortality). However, spending more time in any and all physical activity can help prevent these risks. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is especially important to help combat the negative impact of time spent sitting. Try to get in more movement throughout the day, even if only for a few minutes!

Activity: It ALL Counts

Another important difference in the new guidelines is that all physical activity counts toward the recommended goal for adults. Previously, the guidelines recommended 10-minute bouts of aerobic physical activity to count towards the 150-minute recommendations. Research has recently shown that ALL physical activity throughout the day will lead to health benefits, not just 10-minute bouts. The bottom line? Get moving as much as possible throughout the day and do not be discouraged if it is only for a few minutes - it ALL counts toward the goal of improving and maintaining your health.

Younger vs. Older Individuals: Physical Activity Benefits

While you may already know some physical activity benefits, the new guidelines highlight the specific benefits that different age groups and populations may experience. For example, younger individuals can benefit from physical activity by seeing an improvement in cognition and attention, while older individuals can experience a decreased risk of falls. Physical activity can benefit each of us in different ways, in different stages of life, which is all the more reason to be active at any age. You are never too young or too old to start.

Exercise: Some Benefits Are Immediate

Many of the benefits that come from physical activity are long-term, but new research shows that some benefits can be seen immediately after engaging in physical activity. For instance, individuals may notice an immediate reduction in feelings of anxiety, improved moved and may experience a better night’s sleep.

New Recommendations for Preschool-Aged Children

The new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also highlight new recommendations for preschool-aged children. Children ages 3-5 should engage in physical activity throughout most of the day. Physical activity in this age group is important for the child’s growth and development. Parents and caregivers should facilitate physical activity in this age group via active play of any and all intensities (light, moderate, vigorous). At least 3 hours per day should be spent in physical activity for children in this age group. Encouraging active play through a variety of activity types (i.e. jumping, dancing, organized games).

Although there are new findings included in the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity to maintain and improve the health of Americans is still the foundation. For more information about these guidelines, visit health.gov and don’t forget to get moving and be active today!