For the first time in a decade, the Department of Health and Human Services has updated the federal guidelines for physical activity, recommending 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, along with strength training twice a week.

Wait … what’s new about that? isn’t that the same as the 2008 recommendation? Well, yes, sort of …

The New York Times offers a good summary of the changes and the rationale behind the recommendations: Very Brief Workouts Count Toward 150-Minute Goal, New Guidelines Say. Previously, the guidelines suggested at least 10 minute blocks of physical activity, but the new guidelines say that shorter spurts of activity count too:  “Any physical activity, no matter how brief, including walking up stairs or from the car to the office, provides health benefits, according to the new guidelines, and counts toward exercise goals.” They list some of the immediate benefits of increased activity as being better sleep, improved focus, better mood, and reduced stress. The campaign also focuses on the role of physical activity in managing chronic conditions that affect millions of Americans, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

physical activity guidelines chart

If you are wondering whether your activity is is moderate or vigorous, the guidelines offer this simple “talk test” to find out.

When you’re being active, just try talking:
• If you’re breathing hard but can still have a conversation easily, it’s moderate-intensity activity
• If you can only say a few words before you have to take a breath, it’s vigorous-intensity activity

The guidelines “… also suggest balance training for older people and, for the first time, urge kids between the ages of 3 and 5 to be active for at least three hours a day, an acknowledgment that even small children run the risk of being too sedentary these days.”

Most adults don’t get the exercise they need to optimize their health. According to various studies, only about 20% of American adults currently meet the existing recommendations, and a third never work out at all. Overall, the new guidelines are working to change that by making it easier for people to get into a “sit less, move more” mindset. Their new campaign theme is Move your way: Walk. Run. Dance. Play, with a site that offers tools, videos, and fact sheets to make it easier to get a little more active.

Related resources

Exercise ideas from our blog archives:

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