In a major update of its previous exercise guidelines, the CDC has released the second volume of its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans publication and the takeaway is rather straightforward—we need to exercise much more. In fact, the CDC now recommends double the weekly exercise for adults as compared to the guidelines in its first volume released in 2008. The CDC has also clarified what types of exercises are appropriate for different people.
The Basis for the New CDC Guidelines
It’s not surprising that most Americans simply do not get enough exercise. Estimates suggest that as many as 80 percent of Americans are coming up short, a reality that plays a major role in our nation’s rising healthcare costs and increasing rates of chronic disease. And while nutrition, stress management, sleep and other behavioral habits play a major role in these developments, our collective lack of exercise is a chief contributor to these problems. Moreover, research continues to uncover even more benefits that exercise unlocks.
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Being physically active reduces the risk of chronic diseases and early death, improving the quality of life in the process. It protects against many of the major causes of death and disease in America, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Exercise also promotes a healthier, happier life by reducing the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other behavioral health conditions, while helping to improve sleep quality and insulin sensitivity.
Researchers continue to discover more and more about the dangers of sitting too much, something that exercise can help to alleviate. The simple message of “sit less, move more” may be the easiest to remember, but aiming to meet the CDC’s latest, specific guidelines is best practice.
Just How Much Exercise is Recommended?
Generalizations are challenging, but the CDC has adapted its guidelines for all the major demographic groups, providing not only more extensive exercise recommendations, but more specific details about what types of exercises are important at each stage of life. Here are the new guidelines by group, as presented in the new release:
- Children Ages 3-5: Young children should be physically active throughout the day, mixing their exercise among a variety of different activities.
- Children and Teens Ages 6-17: This group should aim for at least 60 minutes per day of moderately- to vigorously-intense activity, with vigorous aerobic exercise incorporated three days per week. In addition, muscle-strengthening activity, in which all of the major muscle groups are targeted—legs, back, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms—is also recommended at least three times per week.
- Adults Ages 18-64: Adults need to be getting substantially more exercise. The recommendations suggest 150 to 300 minutes per week (which works out to 30 to 60 minutes, five days per week) of exercise of moderate intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes weekly of vigorous exercise, or some combination of the two, which is best spread out throughout the week. Muscle-strengthening activities targeting all the major muscle groups is suggested at least twice weekly.
- Adults Over 65: Older adults are encouraged to follow the same guidelines as those for younger adults, but if that is not possible, they are encouraged to be as physically active as possible.
How to Approach Exercise
If exercise is not currently among your regular weekly activities, or if you’re falling short of the recommendations, perhaps these new guidelines will resonate more deeply. Unfortunately many people view exercise as a chore or task that needs to be accomplished, but if you learn to frame exercise differently, it can become more attractive. There are countless activities you can participate in to meet the CDC recommendations, so choosing something that you find enjoyable is key. Choose to approach exercise as a form of fun, stress release, social engagement or spiritual activity—just to name a few tactics—which helps many people to remain physically active. The bottom line is that, as a country, we need to find a way to become more active. With longer, healthier lives at stake, this matter is both important and urgent.
Derek Noland, MPH Contributing Writer
Derek is a researcher, trainer, and community liaison at the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program at the University of Colorado, specializing in promoting health systems change and combating health disparities. Including his background as a technical writer and editor, he has over 15 years of experience working in the health care field. His past experience includes serving as a contributing author on several textbooks in the medical field, running a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and writing a variety of didactic pieces ranging from online training courses to medical software manuals. Personally, Derek pursues his passion for health and wellness by playing multiple sports, hiking, and running marathons, and through extensive travel, having visited or lived in over 60 countries.