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Exercise Recommendations From the Surgeon General

by |
author image Dean A. Haycock, Ph.D.
Dean A. Haycock has been a freelance science and medical writer since 1993. He is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Schizophrenia," "The Everything Health Guide to Adult Bipolar Disorder, 2nd edition" and coauthor of "Overcoming Complications of LASIK and Other Eye Surgeries." Haycock has a Doctor of Philosophy in neurobiology from Brown University.
Exercise Recommendations From the Surgeon General
Brisk walking for 30 minutes per day is one way to meet the Surgeon General's recommended exercise goals. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

In 2009, the Surgeon General recommended that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per week—30 minutes per day for at least five days per week. This basic level of activity is enough to improve the health of those who meet it, according to The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging. The recommended exercise quota can be met by walking, swimming, biking or even gardening. There are, however, other recommendations that offer more choice when planning your exercise program.

More Exercise Options

The Surgeon General offers alternatives to the basic 30 minutes of exercise per day recommendation. For example, 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week can provide many health benefits. Getting 300 minutes of moderate or 150 minutes of intense exercise can provide even more benefits. “While the previous mantra of 30 minutes, five days per week is one way to achieve the physical activity recommendations, it is not the only way,” the Surgeon General wrote in 2009’s Surgeon General’s Perspectives, “The Importance of Being Active Your Way.”

Add Strength and Flexibility Training

The goal of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise has not changed. It has, however, been supplemented with the recommendation that people add strength training at least two days per week to their fitness routines. The 2011 Surgeon General’s Executive Summary of the report, “Physical Activity and Health,” notes the importance of resistance training to increase muscle strength by weight lifting, for example, to maintain and increase muscular strength and endurance. Also, careful stretching may help to prevent injuries, and improve flexibility, posture and ease of movement.

A Choice of Exercises

Thirty minutes spent walking briskly, raking leaves or mowing the lawn will all satisfy the daily exercise goal, according to The Surgeon General’s report. Other, more vigorous options may allow you to modify the duration of daily exercise. You can also meet the exercise goals by participating in a sport, even if it involves less than continuous exercise. For example, 45 minutes of volleyball may satisfy your daily exercise goal. Varying your activities can limit boredom and may increase the likelihood you will exercise regularly.

Additional Exercise Advice

Providing you are healthy and have been cleared by your physician to exercise, there is no need to limit the amount of exercise to the Surgeon General’s minimum recommendations. Although it appears that any level of exercise is better than none, regular exercise is best, according the Surgeon General. Your level of fitness can decrease after two weeks of inactivity. The benefits of exercise you have gained may vanish if you stop exercising for two to eight months. You can, however, regain your fitness by resuming exercise.

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