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Updated physical activity guidelines for adults

active senior couple

(The following was submitted by James Dixon Gardner, M.D., FACP, a physician who works with Ascension Via Christi Weight Management in Manhattan.)

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It complements the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a joint effort of HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Together, the two documents provide guidance on the importance of being physically active and eating a healthy diet to promote good health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Key Guidelines for Adults

Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits. For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.

Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

Key Guidelines for Older Adults and Adults with Chronic Conditions and Disabilities

The key guidelines for adults also applies to older adults and adults with chronic health conditions and disabilities. As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults and those with chronic conditions and disabilities should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, as these activities provide additional health benefits. They should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness. Older adults with chronic conditions and disabiities should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.

When adults with chronic conditions or disabilities are not able to meet the above key guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.

Key Guidelines for Safe Physical Activity

To do physical activity safely and reduce risk of injuries and other adverse events, people should:

  • Understand the risks but also be confident that physical activity can be safe for almost everyone.
  • Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for their current fitness level and health goals, because some activities are safer than others.
  • Increase physical activity gradually over time to meet key guidelines or health goals. Inactive people should “start low and go slow” by starting with lower intensity activities and gradually increasing how often and how long activities are done.
  • Protect themselves by using appropriate gear and sports equipment, choosing safe environments, following rules and policies, and making sensible choices about when, where, and how to be active.

Adults with chronic conditions and disabilities should be under the care of a health care provider. They should consult a health care professional or physical activity specialist about the types and amounts of activity appropriate for their abilities and chronic conditions.

About Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy is the Senior Marketing Specialist for Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg and Wamego Health Center. She is a proud wife and mom and loves cooking, camping and spending time outdoors, her dogs and reading.