The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

This morning, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released "The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." The guidelines describe, "the types and amounts of physical activity that offer substantial health benefits." In summary, adults need 30 minutes of moderate-intensity daily physical activity five days a week, and children should run and play at least an hour every day.

Regular exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, many cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and other diseases. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said in a telephone interview, "More than 59 percent of adults don't get enough physical activity and a quarter of adults aren't active at all in their leisure time."


Guidelines for ages 6–17:
  • 1 hour (60 minutes) or more of physical activity every day.
  • Most of the 1 hour or more a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Vigorous-intensity activity on at least 3 days per week.
  • Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity at least 3 days per week.

Guidelines for over age 18:
  • 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are provided by increasing to 5 hours (300 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on 2 or more days per week.

Barry A. Franklin, PhD, national American Heart Association spokesperson and Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, stated, "Numerous studies now suggest that if we can simply move people out of the lowest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, it can have a profound (and beneficial) impact on public health." More information and downloads of federal guidelines -

Use this Fitness Fixer column to see how to get healthful activity as part of daily life. You don't need a gym, a trainer, or equipment. Click the articles and archives in the list at right, use the search box at top right, and the Fitness Fixer Index. Read success stories of these methods and send your own.

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Photo - Family meets guidelines on Morro Strand State Beach by mikebaird

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.