• Did you know that there is a set of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans? The second edition came out last year (2018).

    While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) began in 1980 and are required to be updated every five years (we are now in the 8th edition with the 2015-2020 Guidelines), the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAGA) are the younger sibling, or even the next generation, of a Guide for Americans to get it together and eat well and move enough to reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve health. The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was released in 2008 with the update released ten years later.

    The Physical Activity Guideline has key guidelines aimed to children over three-years-old through adulthood.

    Despite what some people may believe, the guidelines are not the government telling you what to do, but are designed as a framework for health professionals and policymakers so they can set up their clients, patients, customers, students, employees, constituents and whomever they may be serving to get the optimal amount of regular physical activity for their health while reducing risk for certain chronic health issues that can lead to disability.

    This way, we can get our children their PE and/or recess back or get it more often. We can encourage employers to give their employees time to take movement breaks. We can have communities set up to allow for regular physical activity, including bike lanes, walking trails, sidewalks, and parks.

    These aren’t random or arbitrary recommendations, but recommendations that come from a committee of professionals who review the most recent research on what is ideal for most people. The guidelines are evidence-based.

    Everyone is different. Shocking, I know.

    Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity daily.

    So, the recommendations are not so much telling people to run or jog or join a gym but to get aerobic activity and engage in strength training activity. The recommendations are not how people should do it but that they do it. Do something.

    And, while some people may be shocked at how low the recommendations are, it is true that the American population as a whole are just not getting enough.

    The recommendations are different for children and adults, but here will focus on adults and their needs. However, it must be noted that children do need the encouragement and support of the adults in their life to get their recommended physical activity as well.

    No matter you age, you should get some kind of activity daily.

    For adults of all ages – even “older” adults, whatever that means – need to strive for the following:

    At LEAST 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity AND at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities.

    Let’s break this down to their component parts.

    MODERATE INTENSITY AEROBIC ACTIVITY = 150 MINUTE A WEEK, AT LEAST

    When we take the 150 minutes per week minimum it is really just 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week. If you choose a 50-minute fitness class three times a week or 75-minute fitness class twice a week or a 30-minute daily walk it all counts. Just make sure to get your heart rate up.

    Doing a 30-minute stroll just won’t cut it. A cruise around the neighborhood where you are checking and chatting with the neighbors isn’t the same.

    You can run, jog, walk, bike, swim, clean house, do fitness classes or whatever gets you motivated and your heart rate elevated.

    You can do fitness classes, swim, bike, jog or run, clean the house or do yard work, dance, speed walk, or whatever – just get that heart rate up.

    No need for a heart rate monitor or another electronic device. Just make sure you are slightly out of breath, but you can still speak. No getting that heart rate up to where you can’t catch your breath, you think you are dying, or you couldn’t easily relay to 9-1-1 exactly what you are needing to report.

    Another thing – if you haven’t been doing anything, then no need to get that 150 minutes this week. You can build up to it. Even starting with 5 minutes a day is great: walk around the block and then, when you get that to a routine, either pick up the pace or add a couple of more blocks.

    There are plenty of devices that can tell you how much you are moving or what your heart rate is, but this isn’t really necessary. And it may be a bit disappointing if you depend on such devices. Scrubbing the kitchen cabinets can raise your heart rate slightly but won’t do much when it comes to adding many steps to a step counter.

    If you are going for a vigorous activity you can get away with spending less time in this arena. More work (higher heart rate), less time, same result.

    The challenge for a lot of people is at what point does one go from the moderate-intensity to the vigorous-intensity activities. The heart rate is higher, you can still talk, but someone would certainly know you were exercising if you were talking on the phone. This can be a gray area for many people. Best bet is to make sure you are getting the 150 minutes minimum – and if it turns out that you were doing more vigorous, then that is just fine.

    Also, the 150 minutes is the minimum to reach. There are additional benefits to getting closer to 300 minutes a week or more. That would be 60-minutes of near-daily activity.

    MUSCLE STRENGTHENING ACTIVITIES = TWICE A WEEK, AT LEAST

    Muscle strengthening activities get your muscles working harder.

    This works, but so do body weight exercises or resistance bands.

    While people tend to think of weight lifting, and this does count, it can also include many other things. This can include body weight exercises, resistance bands, hand weights, or even certain household chores. Try painting a room with a roller; your muscles will remind you of what you did the very next day.

    Twice a week really means that the muscles are targeted twice a week. Each muscle group. For example, people will refer to a “leg day” at the gym. “Leg day” should occur twice a week. So, aim for the full body workout rather than just a few muscle groups.

    Despite what some people think, it is rare for someone to “get big” or bulky with the strength or resistance exercises. People can and do get bigger in this way, but it is a specific routine that will lead to this. It is rare, and virtually impossible for women, to get bulky with a regular weight training or resistance exercise routine.

    Schedule it. Do it. Start now.

    So, five days a week getting at least 30 minutes of some sort of aerobic activity and two days of getting muscle-strengthening activities.

    If you aren’t doing anything now – what are you waiting for? Get 30 minutes of aerobic activity this week and do 10 pushups. And each week or two add more time, add more days, add more muscle groups.

    In one of the most classic and iconic slogans of the last 30 years – just, you know, do it. (It’s a trademarked slogan so you understand the hesitation here…)

    What are you waiting for?