The overwhelming majority of Americans fall short of meeting the goal of maintaining a decent level of physical activity. The updates to the national guidelines published this year have made it more liberal: there are still certain levels that should be met in order to reap substantial health benefits, but there is a statement that makes many an American more optimistic: any physical activity is better than none.
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Snowed under dozens of chores and overburdened with duties, most Americans – around 80%, in fact – fail to exercise regularly and thus do not meet the national guidelines. Whatever prevents them from doing so, it is the feeling of desperation that results from such inactivity – to say nothing of the detrimental effect it has on health. Previous versions of the guidelines were more categorical: here is what you should do, and that’s it. The updated guidelines are more flexible.
The 2018 Guidelines emphasize that engaging in some – at least some – physical activity, even if it is a far cry from what is recommended, is better than sticking to your sedentary lifestyle. You cannot squeeze five hours of physical activity into your weekly schedule? It is not a thing worthy of losing sleep over, provided you exercise some other way, say, by means of walking to your office or just walking your dog.
Of course, it is not what is regarded as the best activity level in terms of its health benefits, but it still does benefit your health, if only to a small extent. A small extent, but an extent nonetheless.
Where there’s a will…
The focus on doing at least something can help take action when you feel that the goal described in the guidelines is elusive. Studies suggest that as little as 15 minutes of walking a week can make a difference and reduce the risk of premature death. It goes without saying that managing to do both – aerobic exercises and strength training – at adequate levels is more beneficial, but even moderate intensity exercises are of great help.
The guidelines provide recommendations for all age groups: from preschoolers to seniors. There are also sections for pregnant and postpartum women, the disabled, those with chronic diseases, and other people whose exercise regimen should be adjusted with regard to their condition. Special emphasis is laid on prevention and what health benefits exercising can yield, of which there are many. We won’t list all the recommendations here, as the guide contains a comprehensive set of actions deemed most beneficial for each particular age group.
…there’s a way
If you cannot stand sweating in a gym, there are plenty of other ways to challenge your muscles. You can opt for yoga – probably the best option for the vast majority of Americans, because the range of exercises it offers combines stretching and training aimed at improving balance and strength. It is a great activity even for seniors.
To facilitate your transition from being a couch potato to a healthy lifestyle, the guidelines provide a lot of examples of how you can not only start paying attention to physical activity, but also actually meet the guidelines, and what activities you can include in your routine.
Do not let the word ‘routine’ put you off. If you reevaluate your attitude to exercising, it can turn into an activity you enjoy, not something daunting you dread. Besides, if you are consistent, you will be able to feel how becoming fit and flexible really makes you feel better and helps you work, study and do lots of other beneficial things more efficiently.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans – health.gov