2018 Exercise Guidelines: Move More, Sit Less
When it comes to improving your health, even the smallest amount of exercise—like, say, a three-minute walk up and down your stairs or a brisk stroll around a single block—can make a worthwhile difference. That’s the biggest takeaway from the newest guidelines encouraging Americans to move more and sit less. For the first time in a decade, the federal government has released science-based evidence that underscores its key message: Any type of physical activity, done in the tiniest of increments, is always better than no exercise at all.
2018 Exercise Guidelines
In most respects, the 2018 exercise guidelines are similar to those given in 2008. They call for adults to clock in at least two hours and thirty minutes each week (about 22 minutes per day) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, along with twice-a-week strength training sessions. But a decade ago, the guidelines stipulated that the aerobic exercise should come in 10-minute bouts, at minimum, in order to be most effective. No longer. “The new physical activity 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 Adm. Giroir in a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press release. “That’s why we need to come together as a nation to get Americans moving. When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better.”
Only One in Five American Adults Meet Entry Level Exercise Guidelines
Got even just 10 minutes to work up a sweat? Apparently, only about one in five American adults were even meeting this entry-level recommendation under the 2008 exercise guidelines. In part, that’s why that suggestion was replaced with an even more doable one. Under the old rules, those who couldn’t squeeze in 10 whole minutes might’ve decided against doing any activity at all. Now, all activity—be it jogging in place in your living room for 60 seconds, or simply doing a set of jumping jacks during the commercial breaks of your favorite show—counts toward your weekly tally of 150 minutes.
Reach the Recommended Exercise Guidelines Through Everyday Activities
And the recommended amount and type of exercise needn’t leave you gasping for your next breath. Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise: playing a few minutes of doubles tennis; washing windows or mowing the lawn; bicycling with no hills (either indoor or outdoor); or participating in a yoga class.
Get Rewarded with Better Health
Though a little exercise is better than none, more exercise still brings the greatest improvement in wellness. “Our bodies are so responsive to exercise that more time and more intensity will reward us with better health,” said StrongPath co-founder Fred Bartlit. According to the guidelines, those who engage in, say, five hours or more a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise reap more health benefits than those who engage in the minimum amount.
While the same recommendations for adults also apply to seniors, the guidelines also include specific recommendations for older adults. As part of the weekly physical activity goals, older adults should include:
- Balance training (such as walking heel to toe, standing on one foot, and performing back-leg and side-leg raises)
- Muscle-strength training (such as squats, dumbbell raises, bicep curls, and lunges)
The Benefits of Following the New Exercise Guidelines
Incorporating the federal exercise guidelines not only helps to enhance mobility, prevent falls, and improve all health markers. Research strongly demonstrates that consistent exercise can also stave off a whole host of ailments, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, obesity, high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression and various cancers (including bladder, breast and colon). “I think the guidelines should also include what disabilities can be avoided if you adhere to a regular exercise regimen,” said Bartlit. In short, consistent exercise won’t simply improve your current physical condition—it can also set you up powerfully for an improved quality of life.
Sick Care Versus Health Care
Four common reasons that most Americans do not exercise: no time in a busy schedule, general exhaustion, a previously failed attempt to stick with a program, little weight loss as a result of moving more—or all of the above. Reports on the benefits of exercise are ubiquitous, so it’s not a lack of knowledge that keeps us from lacing up our sneakers. Rather, in a society that prioritizes sick care over health care, we’ve been conditioned to rely on medication more so than we do on natural intervention. “In a few years, I believe the lack of exercise will be higher as some parts of our government continue putting their efforts into developing more pills to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle,” said Bartlit. “Why? Because people like pills and hate exercise. It’s understandably easier to take a medication than it is to make time for aerobic exercise and strength training. So government efforts will likely lead to less exercise, not more.”
A Strategy for Motivating Yourself to Exercise
So how can you counter our human tendency for nixing exercise in favor of what looks like the easiest possible route? Shift your mindset toward what there is to be gained on the day-to-day. Rather than seeing exercise as something you don’t have time for (or as a chore you must endure), choose to view it as an investment that will make you more productive, strong, and calm as you get through that that time in the afternoon when most of us feel sluggish. It’s more incentivizing to work toward a positive outcome you can experience with each session (like feeling more invigorated all day after just a few minutes on the treadmill) than focusing, for instance, on whether the scale is budging. Even if you don’t drop a single pound, you’ll feel better: Research demonstrates that those who exercise just once a week, or only 10 minutes per day, report greater levels of happiness.
The Fogg Method for Implementing New Habits
Dr. BJ Fogg, the pioneering Stanford behavioral scientist who created the Tiny Habits program, suggests starting small when implementing any new habit, including the incorporation of a little more exercise into your day. His technique, called the Fogg Method, involves three steps: 1) get specific about your micro-goal (instead of saying, “I want to get more active,” aim to take a three-minute walk each morning; 2) make your goal super easy to achieve (decide that you’ll take your walk at the same time each day while listening to your all-time favorite song, one that lasts for about three minutes; when the song is over, so is your workout); and 3) trigger the behavior (set out your sneakers and your headphones in a place where you will see them as soon as you get up in the morning; these items will serve as the visual cue that prompts you to get moving.) When it comes to forming new habits, believes Fogg, less is more. The easier your behavior change is, the more likely you are to actually do it.