New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Multi-generation family walking together through a forest

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 1 in 5 American adults are meeting physical activity guidelines. Inactivity increases the risk of early death, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, depression, and some cancers. [1]

In November 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to provide evidence-based recommendations for children and adults. [2] Included are new evidence about specific health benefits of exercise and updated guidelines for different age groups: ages 3-5, 6-17, adults, and older adults. Special conditions in adults are addressed such as pregnancy and postpartum, chronic diseases, and disabilities. The guidelines highlight the specific amounts of exercise needed for each age and condition and types of exercises.

Key highlights

  • New guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 encourage physical activity throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adult caregivers should encourage children to participate in active play for at least 3 hours each day.
  • Guidelines for ages 6 through 17 have not changed: at least 1 hour a day of moderate-to-vigorous activity with a combination of aerobic (walking, running, or anything that increases the heart rate) and strength movements to build muscles and bones (climbing on playground equipment or rock climbing walls, playing basketball, and jumping rope). If 1 hour a day can be achieved, more specific goals may be created such as including 3 days a week of vigorous activity and 3 days a week of strengthening activities (within the 1 hour).
  • Guidelines for adults are the same but with a new focus: The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans stated that 10-minute bouts of physical activity a few times a day counted toward meeting the guidelines. The second edition removed this requirement to encourage Americans to simply move more frequently throughout the day. The key messages are to move more and sit less, and some activity is better than none. This recommendation is based on new evidence showing a strong relationship between being highly sedentary and an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and deaths from all causes. All types of physical activity can help offset these risks.
    • For increased health benefits, adults should engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing. At least two days a week should include muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights or bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, and squats. Ideally these exercises are spread throughout the week instead of over one or two days; for example, exercising 45 minutes every other day at a moderate to vigorous intensity is more sustainable and safer for your body than exercising for 1 ½ hr on Saturday and Sunday.
    • Exercising for more than 300 minutes a week can improve health even more.
  • Guidelines for older adults are the same as adults but should also include balance training such as tai chi or yoga. To ensure safety, before starting a program they should be aware of their level of fitness and any health conditions that may require a modified level of physical activity. Discussing an exercise regimen with their doctor before beginning a program may be helpful. It is important to increase physical activity gradually over time, to “start low and go slow” with lower intensity activities and then gradually increasing how often and how long the activities are performed.
  • Guidelines for women who are pregnant or in the postpartum period suggest aiming for 150 minutes a week (spaced throughout the week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Women who engaged regularly in vigorous-intensity exercise before pregnancy can continue this higher intensity throughout pregnancy. However, they should communicate with their doctor about their physical activity regimen during pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Guidelines for adults with chronic conditions and disabilities who are able to exercise are similar to the general guidelines for adults. However, they should first discuss with their doctor about the types and amounts of activity that would be appropriate with their specific abilities and conditions. If they cannot meet the minimum physical activity guidelines, they may engage in exercise based on their abilities, while avoiding being completely sedentary. 

Specific health benefits

  • New evidence shows that physical activity has immediate health benefits for reducing anxiety and blood pressure and improving sleep quality and insulin sensitivity (which lowers the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes).
  • New evidence shows that meeting the physical activity recommendations consistently over time can lead to the following long-term health benefits:
    • In youth, it can help improve cognition, bone health, fitness, and heart-health and reduce the risk of depression.
    • In adults, it helps prevent eight types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung); reduces the risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease; reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, and deaths from all causes; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
    • In older adults, it lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.
    • In pregnant women, it reduces the risk of postpartum depression.
    • In all groups, it reduces the risk of excessive weight gain and helps people maintain a healthy weight.
  • New evidence shows that physical activity can help to improve existing health conditions. For example, physical activity can decrease the pain caused by osteoarthritis, slow the progression of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce the severity of symptoms with anxiety and depression, and improve cognition in those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.



  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Physical Activity. 11/12/2018.
  2. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Executive Summary: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Accessed 11/12/2018.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 NIV

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1  NIV

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit? Romans 15:13 NIV

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 NIV

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6  NIV

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NIV

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3 NIV

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1 NIV

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV

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