If you think your busy schedule is stopping you from logging enough hours at the gym, the new physical activity guidelines may convince you otherwise. On Monday, the government released a second edition of “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” with specific recommendations for children, adults, and those with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
The new guidelines say adults can complete short bursts of exercise to reap its benefits (like decreased risk of chronic illness, better quality sleep, and higher energy levels), making an effective and regular exercise routine simpler to achieve. The government first issued physical activity guidelines in 2008. Then, the guidelines suggested exercise had to be done in intervals greater than 10 minutes to count as effective physical activity.
“Current evidence shows that the total volume of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is related to many health benefits; bouts of a prescribed duration are not essential,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wrote regarding the 2018 guidelines.
There is a catch, though: your short bursts of physical activity need to be done often and spread throughout the week to get optimal health benefits. Thomas Allison, director of sports and exercise cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told the Washington Post that sedentary people should get up and move for two minutes for every half-hour they sit. Allison also noted that longer or more intense activity sessions may be needed if someone isn’t moving around often enough.
According to the HHS, 80% of adults and adolescents in the United States fail to meet the minimum physical activity recommendations. With the new guidelines, HHS hopes to inform patients on how to make exercise a regular part of their lifestyles.
Read more: How much you have to exercise and what kind of workout to do to get different types of benefits
The guidelines suggest adults complete just two and a half hours (and up to five hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity, like briskly walking or raking leaves, each week. The new guidelines also outlined recommendations for 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day for children ages 6 to 17, with three days including both muscle- and bone-strengthening activities. Children ages 3 to 5 should also be as physically active as possible, but no specific time recommendation was offered.
Older adults and those with disabilities or chronic illnesses should follow the adult guidelines to the best of their abilities, says the HHS. For pregnant people, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week is recommended during and after pregnancy.
It’s best to spread the physical activity throughout the week and avoid sitting as much as possible. If you’re still stumped on how to fit in your sweat session, try turning your chores into exercise, walking around the block during your lunch break, or going for a hike while you catch up with a friend.
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