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11 Key Findings from the 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines Report

In 2008 the US government published the first Guidelines for Physical Activity for Americans. Last year, the second report was issued updating the original guidelines and adding new information from the past decade on the benefits of exercise.

Here is what you need to know:

Adults need both aerobic exercise and strength training exercise to maintain health. The recommended amount of aerobic exercise is between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of the two. Moderate muscle strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups should be done at least twice a week.

The report validates what exercise professionals have been saying for years – just getting up and moving – has health benefits. In other words, for basic health, it does not matter as much what you do – just doing something will have a positive effect on your health.

How Important is Exercise for your Health?

The summary of the Physical Activity Guidelines states: “ The evidence reviewed for this second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is clear—physical activity fosters normal growth and development and can make people feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduce the risk of a large number of chronic diseases. Health benefits start immediately after exercising, and even short episodes of physical activity are beneficial.”

Key Findings

Move more – If there is one key benefit to focus on to improve your health, it is to get up, move more and sit less.

More can be better – exceeding the recommended upper limit of 300 minutes a week may produce additional health, weight loss and performance benefits. Increase activity gradually over time to reduce your risk for injury.

Spreading out exercise is better – the weekend warrior mentality of getting in all your exercise on Saturday and Sunday is not as beneficial as spreading your exercise activity out over the week. Exercising 3 days a week or more reduces your risk from dying from any cause and from dying from cardiovascular reasons than someone who does the same amount of exercise on 1-2 days per week.

Exercise is potent medicine – The evidence that exercise can help prevent chronic disease, improve our daily lives and reduce the effects of chronic disease keep mounting.

The list below shows some of the benefits of exercising regularly.

· Reduces all-cause mortality

· Reduces risk for diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer at multiple sites, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and osteoporosis

· Reduced risk of cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach.

· Lowers risk factors for disease, such as overweight or obesity, hypertension, and high blood cholesterol

· Improves physical fitness, such as aerobic capacity and muscle strength and endurance

· Improves functional capacity, or the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living

· Improves brain health and conditions that affect cognition, such as depression and anxiety, and dementia including Alzheimer’s disease

· Improves cognition including memory, attention, ability to plan and organize; monitor, inhibit, or facilitate behaviors, initiate tasks; and control emotions, and academic performance among youth

· Reduces risk of falling or injuries from falls in older adults

· Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile

· Lower risk of cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach

· Improved quality of life

· Improved sleep – may help you to fall asleep faster, time in deep sleep and reduce the time awake during the night.

· Slowed or reduced weight gain

· Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake

· Prevention of weight regain following initial weight loss

· Improved bone health

· Improved physical function

· Fosters normal growth and development

Health benefits are independent of weight loss – You do not need to lose weight to be healthier with a few exceptions. You will experience the same health benefits as everyone else. If you are overweight or obese and become more physically active, you will see a greater risk reduction for endometrial and breast cancer mortality.

Guidelines just for older adults - As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multi-component physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. 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. 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.

Exercise now – Benefit now – You can see immediate improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, sleep, anxiety and even memory with just one exercise session. Consistency will help maintain benefits such as reduced blood pressure while leading to additional such as improved cardiorespiratory fitness, increased muscular strength, as well as a reduction in symptoms of mild depression.

Maintain weight Loss – Exercising at least 150 minutes a week may prevent long-term weight gain. Weigh loss can be improved through proper nutrition and exercise.

Harder is better but – Although higher intensity workouts can increase the cardiovascular benefits of exercise there is additional risk associated with these types of workouts. If you are not used to high-intensity workouts, the risk of getting injured is higher. Make sure you work up to the recommended guidelines of at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise spaced over three days a week and two days of muscle strengthening before attempting a high intensity exercise program. Increase the amount of time and days you exercise before increasing how hard you work out.

Get your children moving too – Even children as young as 3-to-5-years-old can benefit from consistent physical activity. Good heart, bone health and body composition can be positively impacted by having children become and stay physically active. Young children even show fewer symptoms of depression when they exercise consistently.

Exercise as you age is a must – Older adults benefit from the same amount of recommended exercise as younger adults. Progress gradually based on your own fitness level and limitations.

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