U.S. Department of Health & Human Services releases physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition

AHA 2018 – Chicago, IL, USA

News - Nov. 12, 2018

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

ADM Brett P. Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, announced the release of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions. The second edition represents the first update since 2008. The second edition provides evidence-based recommendations for youth ages 3 through 17 and adults to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 through 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.

The United States currently has low levels of adherence to the guidelines -- only 26% of men, 19% of women, and 20% of adolescents meet the recommendations. These low levels of physical activity among Americans have health and economic consequences for the nation, with nearly $117 billion dollars in annual healthcare costs and 10% of all premature mortality attributable to failure to meet levels of aerobic physical activity recommended in the guidelines. Adults need 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity each week, with muscle strengthening activities on two days

during the week to stay healthy. Youth ages six through 17 need 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.

ADM Giroir stressed the need for a transition from a sick care system, towards a health-promoting system. “The new guidelines demonstrate that, based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving – anytime, anywhere, and by any means that gets you active,” said ADM Giroir. “That’s why we need to come together as a nation to get Americans moving. When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better. The updated guidelines include evidence-based strategies that leaders across the nation can use to help Americans fit more physical activity into their daily lives.”

The second edition, based on a comprehensive scientific review, reflects new knowledge about immediate and long-term health benefits from physical activity, as well as new evidence that physical

activity can help manage chronic conditions that many Americans already have. It was also noted during the press conference that many of the benefits of physical activity are independent of other health behaviors.

Moreover, it was discussed how this guideline should stimulate society at all levels to work together to improve physical activity and thus health. Schools also have a responsibility in providing enough moments of physical activity during the day, a standard that has not been met thus far. Thus, new attempts are made to change that across the country. The campaign aims to empower not only individuals and families, but also communities, and work should be done on the social determinants of health. Environments should be transformed at a community level, to facilitate an active lifestyle.

Notable updates include:

  • The previous guidelines stated that only 10-minute bouts of physical activity counted toward meeting the guidelines. This requirement has been removed because all activity counts.
  • There are immediate health benefits, attainable from a single bout of activity, including reduced anxiety and blood pressure, improved quality of sleep, and improved insulin sensitivity.
  • There are more long-term benefits from physical activity, including improved brain health, reduced risk of eight types of cancer (previously two), reduced risk for fall-related injuries in older adults, and reduced risk of excessive weight gain.
  • Physical activity helps manage more chronic health conditions. It can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • There are new key guidelines for preschool children to be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.

- Our reporting is based on the information provided at the AHA Scientific Sessions -

The Guidelines have been published simultaneously in JAMA View our video about the new guidelines

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