Moderate exercise adds up for sluggish adults. Rake leaves or take a quick walk around the block. It turns out more fit adults could pack in their week's requirement in 75 minutes with vigorous exercise, such as jogging, hiking uphill, a bike race or speedy laps in the pool.
Children and teens need more — brisk activities for at least an hour a day.
Consider it the exercise version of the food pyramid. The guidelines, from the Health and Human Services Department, aim to end years of confusion about how much physical activity is enough, while making clear that there are lots of ways to achieve it.
"The easy message is get active, whatever your way is. Get active your way," HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt told The Associated Press.
Someone who's done no exercising will start seeing benefits with as little as 10 minutes of moderately intense exercise a day, which is an incentive to work up to the recommended amounts, said Rear Adm. Penelope Royall, deputy assistant secretary for disease prevention. "Some is better than nothing, and more is better”.
The guidelines come as scientists are trying to spread the word to a nation of couch potatoes that how active you are may be the most important indicator of good health. Yet a quarter of U.S. adults aren't active at all in their leisure time, government research concludes. More than half don't get enough of the kind of physical activity that actually helps health - walking fast enough to raise your heart rate, not just meandering, for instance. More than 60 million adults are obese.
What's the right kind of exercise?
You don't have to get all the activity at once. A walk for an hour three days a week works as well as, say, a 30-minute exercise class on weekdays or saving most of the activity for a two-hour Saturday bike ride-or aerobic activities, go at least 10 minutes at a time to build heart rate enough to count.
You should be able to talk while doing moderate activities but not catch enough breath to sing. With vigorous activities, you can say only a few words without stopping to catch a breath.
Children's daily hour should consist of mostly moderate or vigorous aerobic activity, such as skateboarding, bike riding, soccer, simple running.
Three times a week, children and teens need to include muscle-strengthening activities - sit-ups, tug-of-war - and bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or skipping.
Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities - push-ups, weight training, carrying heavy loads or heavy gardening - at least two days a week.
Older adults who are still physically able to follow the guidelines should do so, with an emphasis on activities that maintain or improve balance.
These are minimum goals, the guidelines note. People who do more will see greater benefits.
Please be sure to visit http://www.hhs.gov for more information if not for you then for someone you love.