Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released new exercise guidelines, designed to help children and adults more easily fit physical activity into their daily lives.

“It’s important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a roadmap to include physical activity in their daily routine,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “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.”

Key guidelines include the following:

Children and Adolescents

1 hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous- intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include hiking, skateboarding, bicycle-riding and brisk walking. Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include bicycle-riding, jumping rope, running, and sports like soccer, basketball, and ice or field hockey. Children and adolescents should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as rope climbing, sit-ups, and tug-of war, 3 days a week. Bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope, running and skipping, are recommended 3 days a week.

Adults

 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening are examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities. Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include racewalking, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope, and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. For more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 5 hours a week at moderate intensity or 2½ hours a week at vigorous intensity. Adults should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight training, push-ups, sit-ups and carrying heavy loads or heavy gardening at least 2 days a week.

Older Adults

Older adults should follow the guidelines for other adults when it is within their physical capacity. If a chronic condition prohibits their ability to follow those guidelines, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. If they are at risk of falling, they should also do exercises that maintain or improve balance.

Pregnant Women

Healthy women should get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week during pregnancy and the time after delivery, preferably spread through the week. Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous aerobic activity or who are highly active can continue during pregnancy and the time after delivery, provided they remain healthy and discuss with their healthcare provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.

Adults With Disabilities

Those who are able should get at least 2½ hours of moderate aerobic activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. They should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, involving all major muscle groups, 2 or more days a week. When they are unable to meet the guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid inactivity.

People With Chronic Medical Conditions

Adults with chronic conditions get important health benefits from regular physical activity. They should do so with the guidance of a healthcare provider.

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