The New Federally Recommended Exercise Guidelines And What They Mean For Your Health
For the first time in about a decade, the federal government released an updated set of physical activity guidelines for Americans. The guidelines provide a research-based report card of our activity levels today, noting what you probably already know: we all need to move more, sit less, and pump up–and repeat that more frequently. It states that approximately 80 percent of US adults are insufficiently active, adding that $117 billion in annual health care costs and 10 percent of premature mortality are associated with inadequate physical activity.
This new activity monitoring data shows improvements in physical activity levels among US adults since the last report. However, it also notes that only 26 percent of men and 19 percent of women report performing sufficient activity. The researchers define sufficient weekly physical activity for adults as at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activity, such as weightlifting or resistance training.
Sleep better, feel better
The updated guidelines provide research-based evidence about the interrelationship between sedentary behavior and physical activity, expanding the importance of being active throughout the day. A report in JAMA states that strong evidence demonstrates that regular physical activity has health benefits for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, or body size.
The report provides insights on what ailments are most affected by physical activity. Here’s the shortlist of benefits that occur immediately, after just a single episode of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity:
- Reduced feelings of anxiety
- Reduced blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved insulin sensitivity on the day the activity is performed.
According to the report, other benefits accrue over months or years if an individual can sustain the recommended 150 minutes of regular physical activity. These include:
- Increased cardiorespiratory fitness
- Increased muscular strength
- Decreased depressive symptoms
- Sustained reduction in blood pressure.
The guidelines also outlined the health benefits of physical activity in relation to mortality and chronic diseases, stating that greater amounts of regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduce the risk of many of the most common–and expensive–diseases or conditions in the US.
The research shows that adults who perform the recommended amount of activity have a lower risk of: all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke), hypertension, type 2 diabetes, adverse blood lipid profile, and dementia (including Alzheimer disease). They also have lower risk of cancers (including blood, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach). The researchers also looked at weight, noting that active adults have slowed or reduced weight gain, weight loss (particularly combined with reduced calorie intake), and prevention of weight gain after initial weight loss.
For all the details, read the full scientific report, including interesting chapters specific to the effects of physical activity on brain health, cancer prevention, cardiometabolic health and prevention of weight gain, and chronic conditions. And when you’re done, it might be time to educate your workforce on the guidelines with a new activity challenge.