Questions and Answers

About the Physical Activity Guidelines

About the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee

About the Physical Activity Guidelines

What is the Physical Activity Guidelines and why is it important?

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is an essential resource for health professionals and policymakers. In the United States, 2 out of 3 deaths every year are related to chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Physical activity has been shown to prevent chronic diseases and improve health, but 3 out of 10 adults are inactive and fewer than 1 in 4 Americans currently meet the recommended levels of physical activity to improve health.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans includes recommendations for Americans ages 6 years and older — including those at increased risk of chronic disease — and provides science-based information on how physical activity can help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Guidelines serves as the primary, authoritative voice of the federal government for evidence-based guidance on physical activity, fitness, and health for Americans.

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Who develops the Physical Activity Guidelines?

The development of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This HHS project is a collaborative effort led by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN).

HHS released the first edition of the Guidelines in 2008, followed in 2013 by the Physical Activity Guidelines Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth. The upcoming Guidelines will be informed by the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report and comments from the public. Federal agencies with expertise in physical activity and health will provide comments and clearance of the policy. Additionally, non-federal experts will independently conduct a confidential review of the draft Guidelines for clarity and to ensure that evidence from the Advisory Committee’s report was accurately translated.

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How is the Physical Activity Guidelines used?

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides science-based advice on how physical activity can promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Guidelines also provides a foundation for federal recommendations and education for physical activity programs, including Healthy People objectives and the Presidential Youth Fitness Program.

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When will the next Physical Activity Guidelines be released?

HHS anticipates the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans will be released in 2018.

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About the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee

How were the members of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee selected?

The federal government released a Federal Register notice in December 2015 seeking public nominations for Advisory Committee members. The government called for expertise in the following specialty areas:

  • Behavior change
  • Bone, joint, and muscle health and performance
  • Dose-response of physical activity
  • Health promotion and chronic disease prevention
  • Obesity and weight management
  • Physical activity and cognition
  • Physical activity and risk of musculoskeletal injury
  • Physical activity within specific settings, such as preschool/childcare, schools (e.g., activity breaks, physical education), or the community/built environment
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Special populations including young children, older adults, individuals with disabilities, or women who are pregnant
  • Systematic literature review

HHS staff with expertise in physical activity reviewed the nominees’ qualifications and recommended a slate of candidates to the HHS Secretary. In June 2016, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell appointed 17 individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee. To the extent possible, the Advisory Committee members reflect a diversity of geographic areas, academic institutions, gender, race/ethnicity, and ability/disability.

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How were Advisory Committee members vetted for potential conflicts of interest?

HHS completed a thorough vetting process for each member prior to appointment to serve on the Advisory Committee. Each committee member submitted a curriculum vitae (CV) with information on current and previous grants and funding — and membership on boards and advisory committees. HHS reviewed the CVs and financial disclosure reports for any perceived or actual conflicts of interest. Each committee member also completed an ethics training.

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What is the role of the Advisory Committee?

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee was established to review the current edition of the Guidelines and conduct an evidence-based, systematic literature review of physical activity and health. The Advisory Committee will use the literature review and current resource documents to develop a scientific report that outlines its science-based recommendations and rationale to be submitted to the Secretary of HHS.

The work of the Advisory Committee is solely advisory in nature. The Advisory Committee’s duties do not include developing the policy or determining how future policy might be implemented by the federal government. The Advisory Committee Scientific Report will provide a scientific basis used by the federal government to update the Guidelines. Federal agency input and public comment are also used during the update of the Guidelines.

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What is the difference between the Advisory Committee Scientific Report and the Physical Activity Guidelines?

The Advisory Committee Scientific Report is developed by the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed group of physical activity and health academics and researchers. The role of the Advisory Committee is to provide independent advice and recommendations based on current scientific evidence. The Advisory Committee’s work will conclude with the submission of its scientific report to the Secretary of HHS.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is a policy document developed by the federal government. HHS will use the Advisory Committee Scientific Report, agency input, and public comment to update the Guidelines. The Advisory Committee’s scientific report is not a draft of the policy — rather it is a resource document for the federal government.

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How will the Advisory Committee review current evidence?

HHS will use the Advisory Committee’s work to facilitate systematic literature reviews on physical activity and health. The systematic review methodology objectively reviews, evaluates, and synthesizes research to answer questions on important topics related to physical activity and health. The methodology developed for this project is informed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrition Evidence Library, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Cochrane Collaboration, and the 2011 Institute of Medicine Systematic Review Standards to review, evaluate, and synthesize published, peer-reviewed research.

A 6-step approach will be used to minimize bias and ensure the process is transparent and reproducible:

  1. Develop systematic review questions
  2. Develop systematic review strategy
  3. Search, screen, and select evidence to review
  4. Abstract data and assess risk of bias
  5. Describe the evidence
  6. Complete evidence portfolios and draft report

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Why does the Advisory Committee use a systematic review methodology?

Systematic review is the state-of-the-art method for objectively synthesizing research findings to support practice, guidelines, and policy recommendations. The transparent systematic review method used by the Advisory Committee ensures government compliance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (the Data Quality Act). The Data Quality Act mandates that federal agencies ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information used to form federal guidance. Systematic reviews are the gold standard for informing clinical practice guidelines and public health policies worldwide — as well as limiting bias that could be introduced by looking at individual studies in isolation.

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Does the Advisory Committee integrate existing reports into its review?

The Advisory Committee will review existing high-quality reports to supplement its expertise on specific topics as needed. Sources of high-quality reports include national and international professional organizations, government agencies, and panels of recognized experts in the field.

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Are members of the public able to attend meetings of the Advisory Committee?

The Advisory Committee will conduct a series of meetings in 2016 and 2017 to review and deliberate scientific evidence to support its recommendations. All meetings are open to the public via webcast —the first 2 meetings also allow attendance in person. Meeting dates, times, locations, and other relevant information will be announced via a Federal Register notice at least 15 days before each meeting. In addition, registration and meeting materials will be posted on the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Public Meetings webpage prior to each meeting. Archived webcasts, meeting summaries, and presentations will be posted after each meeting.

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Are members of the public able to give input to the Advisory Committee?

The public is encouraged to submit written comments to the Advisory Committee throughout their deliberations. The public may also provide oral comments to the Advisory Committee at the second Advisory Committee meeting.

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Why are the Advisory Committee meetings aired by webcast?

All public meetings are open to the public via live webcast to provide greater accessibility and transparency to viewers nationally and internationally. Webcasting also allows individuals to access the archived recordings of the meetings at any time through on-demand viewing. Links to the recordings are posted on the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Public Meetings webpage after each public meeting.

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