It is well accepted that the keystone to good health starts with a prudent diet and regular exercise. To promote this concept, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has earmarked the month of May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. According to healthfinder.gov, all ages can benefit from physical activity. Children and adolescents can improve muscular fitness, bone and heart health. Adults can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. Older adults can benefit by reducing fall risk and improving brain function and judgement skills.
The guidelines differ among age groups. Children age 6-17 are recommended to achieve 60 minutes of daily activity. Most of that activity recommended is aerobic, at a moderate or vigorous intensity three days per week. The balance is made up of muscle and bone strengthening. Examples of aerobic include running, jumping rope, dancing, bicycling and swimming. Muscle strengthening can be unstructured, such as climbing on playground equipment, or structured such as weightlifting or resistance bands. Bone strengthening also includes running and jumping, as well as basketball, racquetball and tennis.
Adults age 18-64 will gain most of their health benefits with at least 150 cumulative minutes of aerobic activity of moderate intensity beyond baseline activity per week. The older population of 65+ benefits from exercise similarly. A subset of this group can additionally profit from balance training. This program includes lower extremity strengthening along with a core or abdominal strengthening program, reducing the risk of fall injuries which may increase with age. The same recommendations apply throughout for general muscle and bone strengthening exercise which benefits all populations.
For those who are already maintaining a level of fitness, these are some guidelines for activity. For those who are starting a program or have chronic conditions that may limit their abilities, any level of activity is better than none. Start slow and ramp up to goal. The threshold for significant impact seems to come at three or more days per week of consistent effort. If there is any question about your ability to initiate or increase a regular exercise program, or for additional information or specifics regarding exercise, please visit your primary care provider. An additional resource from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion can be found at https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines.
Bradford Croft, DO