Getting enough exercise? New guidelines for all

If you want to be healthy, you know you gotta get moving, right? But how much exercise do you need? New government guidelines say that depends a lot on how old you are… and your level of fitness.

But basically, the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans says adults get big health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate exercise, and children benefit from an hour or more a day.

The goal of the new guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services is to put an end to years of confusion about how much exercise we need and to let people know there are lots of ways to be active, even if you have to start slowly.

Here are some of the specifics:

Children and Teenagers — One hour or more of moderate or vigorous exercise a day, including vigorous exercise at least three days a week. Moderate activities include hiking, skateboarding, riding a bike, and brisk walking. Vigorous exercise includes bicycle riding, jumping rope, running and sports like soccer, basketball and ice or field hockey. Children and teens should also do muscle-strengthening activities, like rope climbing, sit-ups, and tug-of war, three days a week.  Bone-strengthening activities, like jumping rope, running and skipping, are recommended three days a week.

Adults — Adults get big health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate exercise, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise. Walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and gardening are examples of moderate activities. Vigorous exercise includes racewalking, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. Also, include muscle strengthening activities, like weight training, push-ups, sit-ups or heavy gardening at least two days a week.

Older adults — Follow the guidelines for other adults if you are physically able to do so. If a chronic condition keeps you from those guidelines, be as physically active as you can. And if you’re at risk of falling, also include exercises that maintain or improve balance.

Here’s something that helps me remember the levels of exercise – you should be able to talk while you’re doing moderate activities but not be able to catch your breath enough to sing. With vigorous exercise, you can say just a few words without stopping to catch a breath.

Of course, these new guidelines are just the minimum goals – you will see greater benefits if you exercise more.

I workout 5+ hours a week and definitely do lots of vigorous activity as I continue to get my booty kicked in my Boot Camp class. 🙂 Are you within the new guidelines? Or above or below them? And if you have kids, how much exercise do they get?


  1. Katie October 8, 2008
  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. October 8, 2008
  3. Susan Jackson October 8, 2008
  4. sheri effres October 8, 2008
  5. Caroline October 8, 2008
  6. Dr. J October 9, 2008
  7. Tami Pugrab October 10, 2008
  8. FatFighter October 10, 2008