October 8, 2008

Leavitt Releases New Guidelines on Physical Activity

By Lee Davidson Deseret News

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says adults would gain substantial health benefits from 2.5 hours a week of moderate aerobic activity, while children need an hour or more of physical activity a day.

Leavitt, the former governor of Utah, released on Tuesday new guidelines for activity developed by a 13-member advisory committee he appointed last year to review recent scientific research about physical activity and health.

"The evidence is clear -- regular physical activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases. The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain," Leavitt said.

"It's important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a road map to include physical activity in their daily routine," he said.

Leavitt added that regular physical activity reduces the risk in adults of such things as early death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and depression. It can improve thinking ability in older adults.

The full guidelines are available at health.gov/paguidelines. Following are key recommendations for some groups:

-- Children and adolescents: They should have an hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous physical activity at least three days a week. Examples of moderate activities include hiking, skateboarding, bicycling or brisk walking. Vigorous activities include such things as running, soccer, basketball or hockey.

Children and adolescents should also incorporate muscle- strengthening activities, such as sit-ups or rope climbing, three days a week. Bone-strengthening activities -- such as jumping rope, running and skipping -- are recommended three days a week.

-- Adults: They gain substantial health benefits from 2.5 hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, or an hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes.

For more extensive health benefits, adults should increase to five hours a week of moderate aerobic activity or 2.5 hours of vigorous activity. Adults should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities -- such as weight training, push-ups, sit-ups, heavy gardening or carrying heavy loads -- at least two days a week.

-- Older adults: They should follow the guidelines for other adults when it is within their physical capacity. They should be as physically active as their abilities allow.

-- Pregnant women: Healthy women should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week during pregnancy. Pregnant woman who previously engaged in vigorous physical activity can continue it during pregnancy if they remain healthy and discuss with their doctor how and when activity should be adjusted.

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