Good News: It’s Way Easier Than You Thought to Get the Recommended Amount of Exercise

Forget two-a-day cycling classes — you can now meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ exercise recommendation without exerting yourself for hours.

In the new physical fitness guidelines released Monday, the HHS removed its previous recommendation for adults to do at least ten minutes of exercise at a time. Their concern was that people who didn’t feel like they could do a ten-minute workout would skip exercising altogether.

“Current evidence shows that the total volume of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is related to many health benefits; bouts of a prescribed duration are not essential,” the guidelines state.

Rather, the HHS says that adults should do “bouts” of exercise in any amount, and build their way up to lengthier workouts.

“Starting with low amounts and gradually increasing the amount of time or intensity of physical activity is a good way to build toward meeting the key guidelines. Bouts, or episodes, of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity of any duration may be included in the accumulated total volume of physical activity. Benefits continue to accumulate with additional physical activity, and both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity provide important benefits.”

The basic idea is to “sit less, move more,” Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at HHS, told the Washington Post. “Whatever you do, it really all counts.”

Currently, less than a third of Americans meet the federal exercise guidelines, and just one in five teenagers do.

The total amount of recommended exercise for adults — at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity and two muscle-strengthening workouts a week — is not changing, but rather, the advice about how people can achieve it.

The HHS also still recommends that kids ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes of exercise a day. But they are also now adding preschool-aged children between 3 and 5 to the list, with a general recommendation for physical activity “throughout the day to enhance growth and development.”

“The new guidelines demonstrate that, based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving — anytime, anywhere, and by any means that gets you active,” said Giroir in a press release. “The updated guidelines include evidence-based strategies that leaders across the nation can use to help Americans fit more physical activity into their daily lives.”

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