By Jane Hart, MD
Healthnotes Newswire (September 20, 2007)—The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have released new guidelines for physical activity that recommend that healthy adults ages 18 to 65 exercise a minimum of five days per week in order to promote health and prevent disease. Specifically, the guidelines recommend:
• Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking, for 30 minutes five days per week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as jogging, for 20 minutes three days per week.
• Muscle strengthening activity, such as weight training, a minimum of two nonconsecutive days per week, which should include 8 to 10 exercises repeated 8 to 12 times.
According to the guidelines’ authors, a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities would be acceptable as well and might include walking briskly two days and jogging two days per week. The authors also state that the 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity does not have to be completed all at once and can be broken down into increments of 10 minutes or more.
The current recommendations are an update of the 1995 guidelines and are more specific about the types and duration of exercise. They are based on a review by a panel of experts of the recent scientific findings about the relationship between physical activity and health. The authors point out that an increase above the recommended minimum amount of exercise may provide further health benefits. A companion recommendation was created for adults ages 65 and over and adults 50 to 64 with chronic medical conditions, which stresses similar recommendations but adds important details about balance, flexibility, and creating an action plan.
“Following the current recommendations will lead to an increase in cardiovascular and muscle fitness, help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and assist in the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer,” noted William Haskell, PhD, lead author of the study and professor of Medicine at Stanford Prevention Research Center, School of Medicine Stanford University.
According to recent Centers for Disease Control surveys, about 25% of the US population follows these guidelines. Haskell hopes that percentage increases by 50% over the next decade with the active support of the medical community, employers, and government and private agencies.
He recommends that each person figure out how to build more activity into his or her daily life and gives some practical suggestions. “For example, during the work week a person could arrange to walk 15 minutes on their way to work (get off the bus at an earlier stop) and then do the same thing on their way home three days a week. Then on the weekend spend 30 minutes each day doing a moderate-intensity activity, like going for a walk with a family member or a friend (make it a social event) or play an active game with the kids or work to improve your garden.”
Haskell adds that using a step counter, or pedometer, is another approach that works for some people. “Wear it for a few days to see how many steps you currently take each day. A generally sedentary person usually takes 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day,” said Haskell. “Then start increasing your steps by about 1,000 a day each week until you reach about 10,000 on most days. Keep a log of your steps on a calendar posted on the refrigerator door to track your progress.”
People who are beginning a new exercise program or who have health problems should talk with their doctor before starting to exercise.
(Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:1423–34)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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