Conference Coverage

New HHS physical activity guidelines break fresh ground



What’s new in the guidelines

“This edition tells us that it’s easier to meet the recommendations in the physical activity guidelines,” according to Adm. Giroir. “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.” He broke the guidelines down as follows:

  • We have new evidence about the risks of sedentary behavior, and new evidence that any amount – any amount – of moderate to vigorous physical activity, like walking, dancing, line dancing if you’re from Texas, and household chores is beneficial,” Adm. Giroir observed.
  • While the first edition of the federal guidelines cited strong evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of two types of cancer, breast and colon, the intervening decade has brought forth strong evidence of a protective effect against an additional six types of cancer: bladder, endometrial, kidney, stomach, esophageal, and lung cancer.
  • The guidelines formulate for the first time physical activity standards for children aged 3-5 years. The recommended target is at least 3 hr/day of varied physical activity, consistent with existing guidelines in Australia Canada, and the United Kingdom.
  • Updated recommendations for children aged 6-17 years call for an hour or more/day of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity on a daily basis, with that activity level falling within the vigorous category on at least 3 days/week. Plus, it recommends bone- and muscle-strengthening activity on at least 3 days.
  • The pediatric guidelines are linked to a planned HHS national strategy to expand children’s participation in youth sports as part of an effort to curb childhood obesity, rates of which have more than tripled since the 1970s.

“We’ll soon announce funding opportunities for communities to increase participation in sports among children and teens through participation in affordable programs with trained coaches,” said Dr. Giroir, a pediatrician.

The new guidelines endorse what is called “the comprehensive school physical activity model.”

“I strongly believe our schools should take action to implement this approach. There is a lot of interest right now to affect change in the schools across our country. Part of the answer, I think, is to provide kids with high-quality physical education, but I think we recognize that alone will not be enough.” The comprehensive school activity model calls for not only enriching school PE programs but also incorporating active transport to school, classroom activity, active learning, and after school programs – activity in all settings during the school day. “I’m very hopeful that this model, which is endorsed in the guidelines document, will be widely adopted by schools in this country over the next decade,” Dr. Giroir said.

The first edition declared that only bouts of physical activity of at least 10 minutes duration should count toward meeting the guidelines. That requirement is gone in the second edition. It was an impediment to being active, and upon close examination it wasn’t based on scientific evidence. That means taking the stairs instead of the escalator or parking farther away from the store count toward the weekly physical activity goal, Dr. Kraus said.

“It makes it easier to achieve the guidelines and to encourage Americans to move more and sit less just by making a better choice at many times during the day,” observed Dr. Giroir, a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

The latest guidelines contain up-to-date information on the benefits of regular physical activity in terms of brain health, including reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and improved cognition, including performance on academic achievement tests and measures of executive function, memory, and processing speed, in preadolescent children as well as older adults. Solid evidence also is cited for improved cognition in patients with MS, dementia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

The guidelines provide new recommendations for physical activity for women during pregnancy and post partum.

A section of the guidelines is devoted to proven evidence-based strategies to promote physical activity at the individual, small group, and community level.

Physicians now have a resource to aid them in prescribing an individualized physical activity prescription for their patients with existing health conditions, including osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer survivors, and physical disabilities.

The new physical activity guidelines and related resources for health care professionals are available at the website.

SOURCE: Giroir BP. AHA Scientific Sessions, Session ME.05.

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