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Want to Know How to Stay Healthy? Ask the Government

This week, the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has published its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) second edition. These guidelines (the first study was unveiled in 2008) describes what constitutes physical activity and its relationship to health and well being.

According to the report, “Approximately 80% of US adults and adolescents are insufficiently active. Physical activity fosters normal growth and development and can make people feel, function and sleep better and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.” The PAG provides information and guidance on the types of physical activity that can improve assorted health outcomes for multiple population groups including preschool-aged children age 3-5, children and adolescents age 6-17, and adults.

Key guidelines for adults in the PAG are at least 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of both. Some examples of moderate intensity exercise includes walking 2.5 to 4 miles per hour, playing volleyball or raking leaves. Vigorous intensity activities may be jogging or running, carrying heavy groceries, or taking part in a strenuous fitness class. In order to achieve the maximum benefit, individuals should engage in moderate or vigorous activities. Light intensity physical activity such as walking less than 2 miles per hour or light household chores, may provide some health benefits if this means that the individual is less sedentary. The greatest benefit, however, is when individuals include moderate or vigorous activities in their lifestyle. Adults should also do muscle strengthening exercises 2 or more days per week.

Adults may begin with low amounts and gradually increase the time or intensity of physical activity so that the key guidelines described about can be met. Short sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activities can be included in the total volume of physical activity.

Although they might not fall within these key guidelines, adults ages 65 and over gain significant benefits from physical activity. Most older adults are more sedentary, so they should start slowly. Moving more and sitting less throughout the day is the most critical point to remember. Also important is the combination of multicomponent physical activity: aerobic. muscle strengthening, and balance exercises to reduce the likelihood of falls.

The PAG recommendations stress that moving more and sitting less will benefit nearly everyone. Even individuals doing a small amount of physical activity can benefit by token increases in moderate to vigorous activity. More benefits accrue with more physical activity.

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