Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

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The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides physical activity recommendations for people aged 6 and older and for all physical conditions. The science-based Guidelines recommend a total amount of physical activity per week to achieve a range of health benefits.

These Guidelines can be tailored to meet individual interests, lifestyles, and goals. Recommendations in the Guidelines can be incorporated within daily routines and allow activities—like walking, biking, or dancing—to be integrated.

The main message is that regular physical activity over months and years can produce long-term health benefits and reduce the risk of many diseases. The messages from the Physical Activity Guidelines are also found in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which provide recommendations for healthy food choices and regular physical activity.

Health professionals and policymakers are the primary audiences for the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. However, the information is useful for anyone interested in improving the health of his/her community members and other individuals.


The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans were released on October 7, 2008 and are based on a comprehensive review of scientific research about physical activity and health.

The US Department of Health and Human Services released an update to its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2018, a decade after publishing its first set of guidelines.[1] The 2018 report linked the lack of physical activity to about $117 billion in annual healthcare costs and about 10% of premature mortality.

While the 2008 edition gave recommendations for children from age 6 years onward, the 2018 edition includes guidelines even for preschool children, from ages 3 through 5 years.[2]

Health benefits of regular physical activity[edit]

  • Health benefits of regular physical activity occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every racial and ethnic group. There are also benefits for people who have disabilities.
  • Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activities are beneficial. Bone strengthening activities are also important for children and adolescents.
  • The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.
  • Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:
  1. Control your weight
  2. Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
  3. Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  4. Reduce your risk of some cancers
  5. Strengthen your bones and muscles
  6. Improve your mental health and mood
  7. Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
  8. Increase your chances of living longer[3]

The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests that children who get appropriate unstructured physical activity will reduce their stress; also studies show that stress plays a major role in learning and in health (“Recess Rocks”). Many children benefit from physical activities which help with bullying and better eating habits. Physical activities are important in children because it helps them stay focused in the classroom, improve brain function and overall behavior. <>

Key recommendations for adults[edit]

Aerobic (endurance) exercise recommendations[edit]

  • Most benefits occur with at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Moderate activities are those such as ballroom and line dancing, biking on level ground or with a few hills, general gardening, walking briskly, and water aerobics.
  • If you choose to do vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.
  • Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate activities.
  • Vigorous activities are those such as aerobic dance, biking faster than 10 miles per hour, heavy gardening, race walking, jogging, or running, and swimming fast or swimming laps.
  • It is beneficial to do at least 10 minutes of an activity at a time.
  • Additional benefits occur with more physical activity (higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration).
  • Some physical activity is better than none!

Muscle strengthening (resistance) exercise recommendations[edit]

  • It is beneficial to do muscle strengthening (resistance) activities at least 2 days a week.
  • Resistance activities should include all of the major muscle groups, such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.

Exercise recommendations for the elderly[edit]

  • Elderly exercise aids in compressing morbidity.
  • As adults grow older, emphasis should be placed on fitness in order to maintain health, independence and functionality as opposed to aerobic fitness. When designing an exercise program for older adults, a gentle warm up will be crucial in preventing exercise-induced injuries.[4]
  • It is also recommended that older adults exercise at low or moderate intensity for longer periods of time rather than vigorous intensity.[5]

Key recommendations for children and adolescents[edit]

Aerobic (endurance) exercise recommendations[edit]

  • Most benefits occur with at least 60 minutes (1 hour) or more daily of moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Moderate activities are those such as riding a bike, brisk walking, and games that require catching and throwing.
  • Vigorous activities are those such as running, sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming, or tennis, and active games requiring running and chasing, such as tag or flag football.

Muscle strengthening (resistance) exercise recommendations[edit]

  • Muscle strengthening activities should be done at least 3 days a week as part of the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended for children and adolescents.
  • Muscle strengthening activities are games such as tug-of-war, resistance exercises using bands, body weight, or hand held weights, climbing a rope, tree, or wall, and doing sit-ups.

Bone strengthening exercise recommendations[edit]

  • Bone strengthening activities should be done at least 3 days a week as part of the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended for children and adolescents.
  • Bone strengthening activities are games that involved hopping, skipping or jumping, and running.

Fundamental Movement Skills[edit]

Related to the U.S. Department of Health and Senior Service's Guidelines for Americans are Fundamental Movement Skills. As defined by the Department of Education:

“fundamental movement skills are movement patterns that involve different body parts such as the legs, arms, trunk and head, and include such skills as running, hopping,catching, throwing, striking, and balancing. They are the foundation movements or precursor patterns to the more specialized, complex skills used in play,games, sports, dance, gymnastics, outdoor education and physical recreation activities[6]

Fundamental movement skills are broken up into three categories, including body management skills, loco motor skills, and object control skills.[6]

  • Body Management Skills are those that involve balancing the body in motion and stillness, and are accomplished through moves such as climbing, rolling, twisting, turning and stopping.[6]
  • Loco motor Skills refer to movements that transport the body from one place to another. These include galloping, crawling,running, hopping and skipping.[6]
  • Object Control Skills involve controlling objects with the hands or feet. Such moves would include throwing, bouncing,dribbling, and catching.[6]

Impact on Development[edit]

These skill sets are dubbed fundamental because they are crucial to many aspects of development. Physical development is a more obvious positive outcome from learning these skills, but perhaps less considered outcomes are social and mental development.

  • Social Development: Children who are capable of performing these moves find it easier to participate in games and are more likely to do so.[6] They have greater confidence in themselves, higher self-esteem, and are more likely to be viewed as popular playmates.[6]
  • Mental Development: Many children can demonstrate learning through movement better than they could through the more traditional means of writing or drawing.[6] Physical activity, in general, has been shown to increase academic performance by bettering concentration and attentiveness, as well as improving attitudes towards school.[7]
  • Physical Development: Children who foster these movements are more likely to adopt healthful habits, such as regular physical activity, and improve muscle and bone development.[6] The benefits of physical activity seem endless; however, they are unrecognized by many.


  1. ^ "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans - 2nd Edition" (PDF). Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  2. ^ D’Onofrio, Kaitlyn. "HHS Issues Physical Activity Guidelines". DocWire News. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mazzeo, R. S., & Tanaka, H. (2001, August). Exercise prescription for the elderly: Current recommendations. Sports Medicine,31(11), 809-818.
  5. ^ Pate RR, Pratt M, Blair SN, et al. Physical activity and public health: a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA 1995; 273 (5): 402-7.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Department of Education. (2013). Fundamental movement skills: Book 1- learning, teaching and assessment. Retrieved from
  7. ^ Centers forDisease Control and Prevention. (2013, February 19). Adolescent and schoolhealth: Physical activity facts. Retrieved from

This article incorporates text from the websites of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a United States government agency, with content in the public domain.

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