Physical Activity: A Key Health Indicator

Meeting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was high on the list among 12 health indicators identified in a report published this month by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, as part of the US Government’s Healthy People Initiative, which aims to improve the health of Americans.

The report, entitled Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020, prioritizes improvement in 12 overall health indicators, including: access to care services, quality of health-care services, healthy behaviors, physical environment, social environment, chronic disease, mental health, injury, maternal and infant health, tobacco use, substance abuse, and responsible sexual behavior.

First among recommended healthy behaviors, is increasing the proportion of adults who meet the recommendations of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). In the Physical Activity Guidelines, HHS for the first time laid out concrete, scientific-based guidelines to help Americans improve their health through appropriate physical activity.

HHS also published a 28 page pamphlet entitled, Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults, Based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, to help Americans understand and apply the Physical Activity Guidelines to your daily life.

The Guidelines recommend that adults need at least:

1. Aerobic activity:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week OR
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week OR
  • an equivalent mix of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

AND

2. Muscle-Strengthening Activity:

  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

The aerobic activity need not be done all at one time each day. You can spread your activity out over the day, as long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous pace for at least 10 minutes at a time. (Light-intensity activity, such as shopping, cooking, or doing laundry, however, does not count, because it generally does not cause your body to work hard enough to get your heart rate up.)

Moderate intensity aerobic activity includes, for example:

* Walking fast
* Taking a dance class
* Doing water aerobics
* Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
* Playing doubles tennis
* Pushing a lawn mower

Vigorous intensity aerobic activity includes, for example:

* Jogging or running
* Swimming laps
* Riding a bike fast or on hills
* Playing singles tennis
* Playing basketball

For greater health benefits, the Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults should increase your activity to:

1. Aerobic activity:

  • 5 hours (300 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity OR
  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) each week of vigrous-intensity aerobic activity OR
  • an equivalent mix of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

AND

2. Muscle-Strengthening Activity:

  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

For more information about how much physical activity adults need, what types of activities count, and a video introduction to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, see the website of the CDC.

See also our resource page on Exercise; Physical Wellness: Healthy Exercise for Seniors & Caregivers.

And see our CaringTube™ – Videos on Wellness: Diet, Exercise, Fitness.

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Copyright © 2011 Care-Help LLC

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