New activity guidelines good for everyone

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/21/2008 6:23:48 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 10/21/08

New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are designed “so people can easily fit physical activity into their daily plan and incorporate activities they enjoy,” said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

“These guidelines are the most comprehensive of their kind,” Reames said. “They are based on the first thorough review of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than a decade.”

All age groups can gain substantial health benefits by following the recommendations, according to the nutritionist. Physical activity for all age groups reduces the risk of many diseases and produces long-term health benefits.

Children and adolescents who follow the guidelines can improve their cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness as well as bone health and overall body composition.

Adults who follow the guidelines reduce their risk of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and depression. Older adults can improve their thinking ability and the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living.

Children and adolescents should have one hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous activity at least three days a week. Examples of moderate aerobic activities include hiking, skateboarding, bicycle riding and brisk walking.

Vigorous aerobic activities include bicycle riding, jumping rope, running and sports such as soccer, basketball and ice or field hockey. Children and adolescents should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as rope climbing, situps and tug-of war, three days a week. Bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope, running and skipping, are recommended three days a week.

Adults gain substantial health benefits from two and one-half hours a week (30 minutes per day) of moderate aerobic physical activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening are examples of moderate aerobic activities. Vigorous aerobic activities include race-walking, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack.

Aerobic activity should be performed in blocks of at least 10 minutes. For more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to five hours a week of moderate or two and one-half hours a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity. Adults should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight training, pushups, situps and carrying heavy loads or heavy gardening, at least two days a week.

Older adults should follow adult guidelines if they are able. If a chronic condition prohibits their ability to follow those guidelines, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. If they are at risk of falling, they should also do exercises that maintain or improve balance.

Healthy women during pregnancy should get at least two and one-half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week during pregnancy and the time after delivery, preferably spread through the week. Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous aerobic activity or who are highly active can continue their routine during pregnancy and the time after delivery, provided they remain healthy and discuss with their health care provider how and when activity should be adjusted.

Adults with disabilities, if they are able, should get at least two and one-half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. They should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups two or more days a week. When they are not able to meet the guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.

Adults with chronic medical conditions also benefit from regular physical activity. They should follow the advice of their health care provider.

For more information about the “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” visit For related health topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter home page at For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-3929 or
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or

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