The 2018 Exercise Guidelines: What the Past 10 Years Have Taught Us

The United State Department of Health and Human Services has updated its exercise guidelines! The 2018 guidelines are an update to the first-ever published recommendations in 2008, which included a weekly goal of at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity in bouts of at least 10 minutes at a time. In this second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans what they recommend may not surprise you: most of us need to move more! The Department estimates that at present  50% of Americans are not meeting the current exercise recommendations and 30% of Americans report doing no moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity at all. With the release of the new guidelines maybe what changed most significantly is the growing body of evidence behind the reasons why we should care about this. 

A Growing List of Benefits

While some benefits were known and highlighted in the 2008 guidelines the 2018 report continues to add to the list of conditions which benefit from regular physical activity, including:

  • Reduced risk of developing or progression of certain chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and osteoarthritis
  • Improvements in brain health including reduced incidence of dementia and improved mood
  • Prevention of weight gain
  • Improved sleep including a reduction in time to fall asleep and improvements in sleep quality
  • Reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Reduction in the incidence of postpartum depression
  • Reduced risk of falls and related injuries, in older adults
  • Reduced risk of certain cancers including breast, colon, endometrial, esophagus, kidney, lung, stomach and bladder

The report also released new findings that show for individuals who perform little or no moderate-vigorous activity, replacing their sedentary time with light-intensity activity reduces the risk of all-cause mortality, incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  The evidence in this area was previously lacking.

What’s Else is New?

  • Removal of the 10-minute bouts minimum- all movement now counts toward the daily goal
  • New recommendations to include preschool-aged children (ages 3-5 years old) and the benefits seen in bone health and reduced risk of excessive weight gain
  • A new Move Your Way campaign to help promote and inspire regular exercise

Bottom Line

Individuals who move more tend to feel better, sleep better and have reduced risks of certain diseases!  For the most benefit, Americans are encouraged to participate in some form of moderate to vigorous physical activity for 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week, plus 2 days of strength exercises. If that is not possible exercise appears to provide benefit in a dose-dependent manner, even including light-intensity movement, so any amount of movement is better than none.  If you are looking for support to start, check out the interactive Activity Planner on Move Your Way, set a goal on your wearable fitness tracker or schedule it into your calendar.  If you set a goal, rather than leaving it to chance, you’re more likely to follow through. 

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