Move more and sit less — I like the sound of that. Maybe you have heard it before, but if you haven't, let me tell you where it came from. I bet many of you readers don't realize that a publication exists called The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. That is where you will find that statement. These provide information and guidance on what people, young and old, should do actively to improve their health.
The first edition of the guidelines was released in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They were developed initially to provide information for Americans on how to "be active, healthy, and happy" as stated on the health.gov website. As the Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) advisory committee continued to follow and review the guidelines, and current science and research has improved, a need to update them was apparent. The guidelines were updated in November of 2018.
In this new edition of the guidelines, you will find more evidence-based recommendations for different age groups — from youth as young as 3 year olds to adolescents to adults and older adults. There also is more material for special populations and people with various chronic health conditions in this edition.
The recommended amount of physical activity, as backed by many organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Council of Sports Medicine, is still 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. But the key guideline from the new edition is to "move more and sit less," as stated on the Health.gov website. The guidelines also suggest to do strength-training exercises two days a week.
We all know that some activity is better than none, so making our lives more active is what we must strive to do. The first edition of the guidelines stated we should at least get 10 minutes of exercise or activity at one time towards this 150-minute goal, but now trying to move more frequently by being less sedentary during the day can "count" toward our recommended moderate aerobic activity per week.
Isn't it great that taking the garbage out or vacuuming or mowing the yard can make a difference in our overall health? Even if you're limited on what physical activities you can do, stretching your arms overhead, performing "sit-to-stands" or marching in your chair can improve your health.
Any activity like those stated above, along with moderate aerobic exercise, can help with lowering our blood pressure and improving our sleep quality and alleviating stress. These benefits can be seen almost immediately. If people would live by these guidelines, we would see more positive long-term results relating to brain health, fall-related injuries and prevention of some cancers, along with the continued fight against obesity, poor heart health and many chronic diseases.
I've written before that exercise is medicine. Do your health a favor by looking up the Physical Activity Guidelines online or find a copy at the library. Live these guidelines and get your family and friends to join you. Let your motto be "move more and sit less!"
Julie Kirk is a fitness instructor at Great River Health Fitness. Her column appears in Living Well the second Tuesday of each month.