American Heart Association

American Heart Association

November 12, 2018
11 min read

New physical activity guidelines encourage movement ‘anytime, anywhere’

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Brett Giroir
Brett P. Giroir

CHICAGO — At the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, HHS released the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which provides new recommendations for children and adolescents aged 3 years through 17 years.

“This edition tells us that it’s easier to achieve the recommendations in the physical activity guidelines,” Brett P. Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health for HHS, said during a press conference. “As opposed to everything being harder and harder, it is actually easier to achieve the recommendations in the physical activity guidelines. The new guidelines demonstrate based on the best science everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving anytime, anywhere and by any means that gets you active.”

The first edition of the guidelines was released a decade ago. Although physical activity has improved since the release of the original guidelines, only 26% of men, 19% of women and 20% of adolescents report that they perform sufficient amounts of physical activity, according to the guidelines.

Perils of inactivity

“Inactivity causes 10% of premature mortality in the United States,” Giroir said during the press conference. “That means if we can just get 25% of inactive people to be active and meet the recommendations, almost 75,000 deaths would be prevented in the United States.”

The scientific evidence that was reviewed to develop the updated guidelines showed the additional health benefits of physical activity. There are immediate health benefits that are achieved with physical activity, including quality of sleep improvement, reduction of anxiety, BP reduction and improved insulin sensitivity.

More long-term benefits result from meeting recommendations in these guidelines, including reduced risk for injuries from falls for older adults and improvements in cognition for children, postpartum depression for pregnant women, dementia including Alzheimer’s disease and excessive weight gain for all age groups. In addition, physical activity aids in the prevention of certain types of cancer for adults, including endometrium, bladder, kidney, esophagus, lung and stomach, according to the guidelines.

Children aged 3 to 5 years are recommended to be active throughout the day, as it boosts growth and development. At least 3 hours of daily active play should be encouraged by adults caring for the children.

At least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity is recommended for children and adolescents aged 6 years through 17 years to attain the most health benefits. Activity can include anything that increases heart rate such as running or walking. Climbing on playground equipment, jumping rope and playing basketball can also make this group’s bones and muscles strong.

The guidelines recommend that adults perform at least 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like fast dancing or brisk walking. Muscle-strengthening activity like push-ups and weightlifting is also recommended 2 days per week.

Move more, sit less

Adults are also recommended to move more and sit less, as evidence has shown that increased sedentary behavior is associated with elevated risk for high BP, heart disease and all-cause mortality.

In addition, some health benefits are achieved with any amount of physical activity. The first edition of the guidelines recommended 10-minute bouts of physical activity, but with this edition, Americans are recommended to move more frequently during the day.

“Our overarching vision is to transform the current sick care system into a health promoting system,” Giroir said during the press conference. “The announcement of the guidelines is a unique opportunity to implement this vision directly to affect every single person across the country.”

“The American Heart Association will leverage these new guidelines to amplify our efforts to develop programs and advocate for policies that make it easier for everyone to get more physical activity regardless of where you live,” AHA president Ivor J. Benjamin, MD, FACC, FAHA, director of the cardiovascular center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said during the press conference. “With a focus on the relentless force for a world of longer healthy lives, the American Heart Association is a champion for age-appropriate activity in early care and education, physical education in schools, safe routes to schools and bike and walking paths across communities that account for the needs of people and place in an equitable way.”

“Strategies recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, could yield tangible increases in physical activity levels in the United States, and, as a result, reduce ever-increasing rates of chronic disease and burgeoning health care spending,” Giroir and Don Wright, MD, MPH, from HHS’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, wrote in a related viewpoint in JAMA. “Increasing the number of Americans who regularly achieve the [physical activity guidelines] recommendations will require individuals, as well as community and national leaders across all sectors of society, to take action. Physicians and other health care professionals should participate in, and indeed lead, this important call to Americans to make simple lifestyle changes that will improve longevity and quality of life.”

“Achieving the guideline-recommended levels of physical activity will be difficult for the entire nation, given that approximately 80% of U.S. adults and adolescents do not presently accumulate sufficient physical activity for optimum health,” Paul D. Thompson, MD, chief of cardiology and co-physician in chief at Hartford HealthCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, and Thijs M.H. Eijsvogels, PhD, assistant professor in the department of physiology at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, wrote in a related editorial. “Efforts to increase physical activity among people in the United States will require the cooperation of many sectors of society including clinicians, other health care professionals and health care organizations. Achieving these recommendations will substantially improve individual and population health.” – by Darlene Dobkowski


Giroir B.

Wright D.

Kraus WE.

Pate RR. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. All presented at: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Nov. 10-12, 2018; Chicago.

Giroir BP, et al. JAMA. 2018;doi:10.1001/jama.2018.16998.

Piercy KL, et al. JAMA. 2018;doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14854.

Thompson PD, et al. JAMA. 2018;doi:.10.1001/jama.2018.16070.

Disclosures: Benjamin, Eijsvogels, Giroir, Thompson and Wright report no relevant financial disclosures.