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Appendix 1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

In addition to consuming a healthy eating pattern, regular physical activity is one of the most important things Americans can do to improve their health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,[1] released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for Americans on the amounts and types of physical activity needed each day. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days each week. Youth ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities (see Table A1-1 for additional details). Just as individuals can achieve a healthy eating pattern in a variety of ways that meet their personal and cultural preferences, they can engage in regular physical activity in a variety of ways throughout the day and by choosing activities they enjoy. Table A1-2 provides a list of Federal resources, including handouts, online assessments, trackers, and interactive websites. These can be used to help motivate consumer audiences to make healthy physical activity choices.

Table A1-1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Recommendations

Age Recommendations

6 to 17 years

Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily.

  • Aerobic: Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate-a- or vigorous-intensityb aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week.
  • Muscle-strengthening:c As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
  • Bone-strengthening:d As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
  • It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.

18 to 64 years

  • All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
  • Adults should also include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

65 years and older

  • Older adults should follow the adult guidelines. When older adults cannot meet the adult guidelines, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions will allow.
  • Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.
  • Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
  • Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.

a Moderate-intensity physical activity: Aerobic activity that increases a person’s heart rate and breathing to some extent. On a scale relative to a person’s capacity, moderate-intensity activity is usually a 5 or 6 on a 0 to 10 scale. Brisk walking, dancing, swimming, or bicycling on a level terrain are examples.

b Vigorous-intensity physical activity: Aerobic activity that greatly increases a person’s heart rate and breathing. On a scale relative to a person’s capacity, vigorous-intensity activity is usually a 7 or 8 on a 0 to 10 scale. Jogging, singles tennis, swimming continuous laps, or bicycling uphill are examples.

c Muscle-strengthening activity: Physical activity, including exercise that increases skeletal muscle strength, power, endurance, and mass. It includes strength training, resistance training, and muscular strength and endurance exercises.

d Bone-strengthening activity: Physical activity that produces an impact or tension force on bones, which promotes bone growth and strength. Running, jumping rope, and lifting weights are examples.

Source: Adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008. Available at: https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity. Accessed August 6, 2015.

Table A1-2. Federal Physical Activity Resources

Program/Initiative Lead Office Website
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) health.gov/our-work/physical-activity
Healthfinder.gov (consumer resources) ODPHP health.gov/myhealthfinder
Healthy People 2020 (Physical Activity national objectives) ODPHP www.healthypeople.gov
Let’s Move! Office of the First Lady www.letsmove.gov
Step it Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities Office of the Surgeon General www.surgeongeneral.gov
I Can Do It, You Can Do It President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) www.fitness.gov
Presidential Youth Fitness Program PCFSN www.pyfp.org/index.shtml
The President’s Challenge PCFSN www.presidentschallenge.org
The President’s Challenge Adult Fitness Test PCFSN www.adultfitnesstest.org
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Youth Toolkit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/guidelines.htm
BAM! Body and Mind (focused on tweens) CDC www.cdc.gov/bam
We Can! (Ways to Enhance Childhood Nutrition and Physical Activity) National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan
Go4Life (focused on older adults) NIH National Institute on Aging https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/
SuperTracker U.S. Department of Agriculture www.supertracker.usda.gov
National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP)* NPAP Alliance www.physicalactivityplan.org

*The National Physical Activity Plan is not a product of the Federal Government. However, a number of Federal officers were involved in the development of the Plan.

Notes

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008. ODPHP Publication No. U0036. Available at: https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity. Accessed August 6, 2015.