Staying Physically Active: How Much Exercise is Right for You?

by Adrienne Snavely

Everyone knows that the key to keeping a healthy body is a combination of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. What is considered “regular” differs from person to person. The Dietary Guidelines for America (DGA) first explained the importance of physical activity in 1990 and has reinforced this in every edition since then. Physically active people have improved growth and development and lower rates of chronic diseases.

In 2008, the Dept of Health and Human Services issued the first Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) for Americans age 6 and older.

  • Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more physical activity every kidsportsday. Most of the minutes should be moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity. The other minutes should include muscle and bone strengthening activities. Encourage young people to participate in activities that are age-appropriate, enjoyable, and that offer variety.
  • Adults age 18 to 64 should avoid inactivity, and some is better than none. Adults should do at 150-300 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity in periods of at least 10 minutes each. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
  • hormonemenOlder adults over age 65 should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. They should do exercises that maintain or improve balance to prevent falls. Those with chronic conditions should understand if and how their conditions will affect their ability to safely do regular physical activity.

Despite the best efforts to encourage regular physical activity, most of the U.S. population does not meet the PAG recommendations. In the National Health Interview Survey, fewer than 21% of adults met the minimum recommendations, fewer women than men and fewer minorities than the white populations. Also only 27% of adolescents, fewer girls than boys, met the recommendations. Over the past six years, data shows a minimal, but positive trend.

treadmillsPhysically active children and adolescents have higher levels of cardiorespiratory endurance and muscular strength. Compared to less active or sedentary adults, being physically active resulted in cardio and muscular fitness, healthier body weight/composition, enhanced bone health, and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. High-intensity muscle-strengthening activity enhances skeletal muscle mass, strength, and power. Physical activity reduces the risk of depression and cognitive decline in adults and older adults.

To reduce the risk of injuries during physical activity:

  • Understand the risks but be confident it is safe
  • Do types of activity appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals
  • Increase activity level over time
  • Use appropriate gear and sports equipment
  • People with chronic conditions should consult their physician about what kind of activity is appropriate for them.
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. “Part D. Chapter 7: Physical Activity.” Advisory Report of 2015. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2015. Web. 3 Mar 2015.

Leave a Reply


Be sure to include your first and last name.

If you don't have one, no problem! Just leave this blank.