The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is no longer creating its own exercise guidelines. Instead, it points to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Time to get moving!
It turns out that only about 23 percent of U.S. adults meet the standards for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, according to the 2018 National Health Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We hate to “should” on you, but here’s how much, and how often, Americans should be getting a move on.
It’s not one-size-fits all, y’all. The guidelines suggest different activity levels depending on your age and other factors. Here’s what’s recommended:
- Do 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours per week of moderate physical activity, like heart-pumping, brow-sweating stuff. You could try one of these low-impact workouts. Hey, even a brisk walk can count as a legit cardio workout, so no excuses.
- If that’s too much time per week, no worries — just make sure your workouts are more intense. If you’re tight on time, do 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of vigorous movement. We’re talking a HIIT session or a boxing workout.
- You’ll also want to try your hand at some muscle-strengthening exercise at least two times a week, like this dumbbell sequence or a full-body TRX workout.
Preschool-age children (ages 3 to 5)
- Parents, make sure your babes are physically active throughout the day and form those good habits now. Duck, duck, goose, anyone?
Children and adolescents (ages 6 to 17)
- Since kids have so much energy to burn, encourage them to do at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity, like playing tag, every day.
- Do muscle-strengthening physical activities at least 3 days a week. Think climbing trees, tug of war, gymnastics — anything to get them to sleep more, right?
- Include bone-strengthening activities 3 days a week, like walking and jumping rope.
- If you’re an older adult, see how close you can stick to the guidelines for adults.
- If you can’t do 1 hour and 15 minutes of exercise per week, give it what you can and let that be good enough. We’re all just doing our best, after all.
- Because falling is a risk as we get older, throw balance training into the mix, like yoga or tai chi.
- If you can, do muscle-strengthening activities and aerobics. In our opinion, water aerobics sounds like a great time.
- Safety is always No. 1. Have a little chat with your doctor about any physical limitations and the best fitness plan for you.
Women during pregnancy and the postpartum period
- Within reason, stick to the guidelines for adults. Maybe don’t train for a triathlon at 7 months pregnant, though, OK?
- Check with your doctor about the best ways to stay fit during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
Adults with chronic health symptoms or disabilities
- To the best of your ability, work with the guidelines outlined for adults, especially for muscle-strengthening.
- Spread your workouts evenly throughout the week and avoid long periods of inactivity.
- Everyone is different, so be sure to talk to a doc you trust about how to match your abilities with the best activities available.
Sitting at our desks all day, err day is totally wrecking our health. This is one of the biggest areas of research outlined in the report.
The new guidelines point to a strong link between sedentary behavior and death from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease. So, let’s get a standing desk and take walking breaks, yes?
Length of activity is also important. Experts used to recommend we get active in 10-minute spurts throughout the day, but the new guidelines say that’s less important. What does matter is doing some form of exercise on the daily, like a quick morning workout or a yoga class.
Here’s the bottom line: Any regular activity is better than none. If you sit less and move more, it’ll make a difference. Even a 5-minute routine can benefit your bod.
Here are the main takeaways:
- Everybody benefits from moving around: children, adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and people in every racial and ethnic group. Everybody wins!
- The more you move, and the more often, the more benefits you’ll see. (Duh?)
- The benefits outweigh the negatives, like injury.
- People with disabilities benefit from exercise, too, even when it’s less frequent.
- Exercise helps people with chronic symptoms improve their overall quality of life.
- Pregnant women who stay fit can reduce their risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression.
- Older adults can reduce their risk of fall-related injuries.
- More workouts may spell good news for your memory, attention, and risk of anxiety and depression. It’s also worth gold for your executive functioning — that is, the ability to plan your life, get organized, and control your emotions.
When you’re starting to get fit, it’s super tempting to go balls-to-the-wall right away. We know you’re excited, and exercise feels awesome, but safety is muy importante, amigo.
The HHS guidelines advise that you choose a physical activity that aligns with your current fitness level. So, like, no going to seven dance classes this week as a beginner just because you killed it in Dance Dance Revolution, got it?
Also, increase your activity g.r.a.d.u.a.l.l.y over time to prevent burnout or injury. Start low and go slow, say the guidelines.
We’re not your mom, but remember: Always protect yourself with the right gear and sports equipment. Stick to safe environments too. Choose carefully when, where, and how to be active.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new activity program, especially if you have any chronic symptoms.
And finally, for more information, take a looksie at the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. For a shorter version, view the Executive Summary of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Wow, that was a mouthful.
It’s official: You’ve got everything you need to get started with your new fitness plan. Now get out there and go do you, boo-boo.