Most of us don’t meet recommended exercise guidelines, which is a shame because regular exercise is good for us for a million reasons besides weight loss. The new guidelines released this month, are even easier to meet, and they include recommendations for people ages three and up.
Note: The following physical activity guidelines are from the ODPHP and are chiefly aimed at Americans. However, seeing as we're all human with similar fitness requirements, the recommendations are equally relevant to Australians. You can find our own guidelines here.
Zero exercise is not enough. Going for a walk every day is probably a good thing. And if you're training for a marathon, you'll be on your feet for a couple hours of hard workouts every week. But what is the benchmark for a human being just trying to squeeze enough healthy exercise into their life? Let's break it down.
The amount of recommended exercise hasn’t changed, but there’s no longer a 10-minute minimum. So a few minutes of climbing the stairs at work, running to catch the bus, and a seven-minute workout with an app all count.
Here’s the rundown, by age group:
Adults should get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (like a brisk walk). Vigorous exercise counts double, so you would only need 75 minutes.
Adults who are pregnant or have chronic diseases or other health issues should still try to meet the guidelines, within their abilities.
Kids aged 6 to 17 should get an hour of exercise each day.
Little kids, aged 3 to 5, should be moving around (whether it looks like “exercise” or not) for three hours per day.
Not sure if your kids are getting enough exercise? Check out the fact sheet for parents, which gives more details and suggested activities. Older kids should get three days a week of “muscle strengthening activity” like climbing monkey bars or doing exercises like push-ups.
They should get some vigorous exercise three days a week. And they should do “bone strengthening” exercise that involves running, jumping, or walking three days a week. That might sound like a lot, but an afternoon of running and climbing at the playground checks all the boxes.
Why Exercise Matters
We tend to think of exercise as being either for its own sake—so you can gain muscle, win a race, play basketball without dying—or as part of a weight loss plan. Exercise isn’t even all that great for weight loss, though. Which is a shame, because people who don’t have weight to lose (or have given up because it didn’t work) can still benefit tremendously from exercise.
The new guidelines point out a ton of reasons we actually should get the recommended exercise. Among them:
Kids tend to sleep better, get better grades and be in a better mood when they exercise regularly.
In the short term, you can see lowered anxiety, lowered blood pressure and better insulin sensitivity.
You’ll sleep better.
Exercise helps reduce the pain of osteoarthritis (really!), and can help you stay sharper in the face of dementia, Parkinson’s, and other conditions.
Exercise slows the progression of hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
And it can alleviate anxiety and depression.
Exercise doesn’t replace other therapies for the conditions above (as always, talk to your doctor) but it can help. And since some of the benefits are short term, you don’t have to wait decades to see the effects.