Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2018
Nov 19

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2018

By Laura Leiden, MS, RD, LDN - Let's Move Pittsburgh Team

The CDC just released the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans together with the national campaign Move Your Way!

Often times when we think of exercise, images of bench pressing heavy weights, jogging in a tree-lined park and holding planks come to mind. But what about carrying a bag of heavy laundry up and down your stairs? The new Physical Activity Guidelines, which were published earlier this month, have a more approachable tone than years past. The main takeaway? Every little bit of movement counts!

Since the first edition’s publication in 2008, the evidence on health benefits of physical activity has been accumulating. Seventeen nationally recognized, non-federal experts in physical activity and health were appointed to serve as the Advisory Committee. For 21 months, these leaders in public health worked diligently to examine the current scientific evidence and create an advisory report that was open for public comments and feedback. While the core recommendations aren’t that different from the 2008 version, this second edition features exciting new guidelines for preschool aged children, pregnant women, and has updated recommendations for youth and adults.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2018 recommend that children ages 3-5 are encouraged to be active throughout the day, engaging in active play at least 3 hours a day. It is good to see that active play should be one of the predominant activities for children of this age since physical activity in these early years is so vital for growth and development.

The guidelines for children ages 6-17 remains the same: aim at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. However, this recommendation is now broken down into two main categories: aerobic and strengthening activities. This change is a great reminder that children not only need to get their heart rate up, but they also need playful physical activity that can strengthen their bones and muscles. Some ideas listed are swinging on the monkey bar or climbing stairs for muscles and running or jumping for stronger bones.

For adults, the recommended amount of physically active is set at 2.5-5 hours of moderate and vigorous physical activity each week including strengthening exercise twice per week. To achieve this, they encourage thinking in terms of moving more and sitting less. You don’t need to wait until you have 30 minutes of free time to exercise. Even though moderate and vigorous activity has a stronger link to reducing the risk of chronic disease, every movement counts.

Physical activity has enormous preventive powers: it reduces the risk of eight different types of cancer, dementia (including Alzheimer's), heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression.

In addition to the preventive benefits, new evidence has confirmed that physical activity also provides immediate health benefits. Being active can improve sleep, bone health, and physical function. It can reduce anxiety, decrease blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.   For youth, exercising can lead to immediate cognitive improvement and reduced risk of depression. Your kids will have a better mood, better sleep, and better grades—it’s win-win! 

New evidence shows that physical activity can also help manage existing health conditions such as decreasing pain for those with osteoarthritis, reducing disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improving cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

With all these benefits, it makes sense to start thinking about ways to create opportunities to move throughout your day. There is no one-fits-all formula, routine forms when Move Your Way. Let’s get creative and build movement into our routines! From lugging home heavy bags from the grocery store to commuting to work, there are plenty of ways to fit activity into a busy schedule (check out the Move your Way webiste for more ideas). And let’s not forget about our children! Advocating for physical activity and provide opportunities for children to be active in places where they live, play and grow goes a long way.