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College of Health Sciences and Human Services

Kinesiology

Physical Activity Guidelines

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides evidence-based recommendations for adults and youth ages 3 through 17 to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy.

1. Adults should accumulate at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.

2. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 - 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 - 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.

3. Preschool-aged children should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adults caring for children this age should encourage active play and aim for at least 3 hours per day.

4. Each day, youth ages 6 - 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity. Most activity can be aerobic (anything that makes their hearts beat faster). They also need activities that make their muscles and bones strong, like climbing, playing basketball, and jumping rope.

5. Physical activity has many health benefits independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.

6. Remember to move more and sit less. There is a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. All physical activity can help offset these risks.

7. Any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. Americans can benefit from small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day.

8. Physical activity has immediate health benefits. For example, physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.

9. Physical activity can help manage health conditions that Americans already have. Physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

10. Meeting the recommendations consistently over time can lead to even more long-term health benefits:

  • For youth, physical activity can help improve cognition, bone health, fitness, and heart health. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
  • For adults, physical activity helps prevent 8 types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung);
  • Reduces the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
  • For older adults, physical activity also lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.
  • For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression.
  • For all groups, physical activity reduces the risk of excessive weight gain and helps people maintain a healthy weight.
  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day.
  • Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75-100 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

Recommendations for Preschool Aged Children

  • Ages 3-5 years should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
  • Adult caregivers of preschool-aged children should encourage active play that include a variety of activity types.

Recommendations for Children & Adolescents (3-17)

  • It is important to provide young people opportunities and encouragement to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.
  • Children and adolescents ages 6-17 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily:
    • Aerobic: Most of the 60 minutes or more per day should be either moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity and should include vigorous intensity physical activity on at least 3 days a week.
      • Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days a week.
      • Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days a week.

Recommendations for Women During Pregnancy & Postpartum

  • Women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Women who habitually engaged in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or who were physically active before pregnancy can continue these activities during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • Women who are pregnant should be under the care of a health care provider who can monitor the progress of the pregnancy. Women who are pregnant can consult their health care provider about whether or how to adjust their physical activity during pregnancy and after the baby is born.

Recommendations for Older Adults

  • The key guidelines for adults also apply to older adults. In addition, the following key guidelines are just for older adults:
    • As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
      • 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.
      • When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Recommendations for Adults with Chronic Health Conditions and Disabilities

  • Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities, who are able, should be at least 150 minute to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities, who are able, should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.
  • When adults with chronic conditions or disabilities are not able to meet the above key guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.

We are here help you! If you have any questions regarding safe physical activity, please contact us!

To do physical activity safely and reduce risk of injuries and other adverse events, people should:

  • Understand the risks, yet be confident that physical activity can be safe for almost everyone.
  • Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for their current fitness level and health goals, because some activities are safer than others.
  • Increase physical activity gradually over time to meet key guidelines or health goals. Inactive people should "start low and go slow" by starting with lower intensity activities and gradually increasing how often and how long activities are done.
  • Protect themselves by using appropriate gear and sports equipment, choosing safe environments, following rules and policies, and making sensible choices about when, where and how to be active.
  • Be under the care of a health care provider if they have chronic conditions or symptoms. People with chronic conditions and symptoms can consult a health care professional or physical activity specialist about the types and amount of activity appropriate for them.