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Health Feature Articles

Measuring Up to the New Physical Activity Guidelines

Glenda Kinder, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Newly released physical activity guidelines may be the roadmap to better health for you and your family. Despite increased evidence that physical activity is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, surveys show that few Americans have increased their activity levels in decades. This reality has contributed to the increased weight and associated healthcare problems our society has witnessed.


The health costs of inactivity led the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to create the first set of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines describe exactly how much and what types of activity are needed to control weight and reduce the risk of major health problems.


While advice on physical activity has been a part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans since 1995, separate recommendations were warranted because of the growing waistlines of Americans and the overwhelming body of research that supports the health benefits of physical activity.


A panel of experts reviewed current research and looked for health-enhancing activities that would improve health when added to everyday living. The experts defined four levels of personal activity:

  1. Inactive (no activity beyond baseline daily activity)
  2. Low (beyond baseline, but less than 150 minutes a week)
  3. Medium (150 – 300 minutes a week)
  4. High (more than 300 minutes a week)

The key physical activity guidelines for all adults are:

  • Avoid inactivity; anything is better than nothing.
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week for substantial health benefits.
  • Exercise beyond the minimum to gain additional benefits, including weight loss. Aim for 300 minutes of moderate or 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week to lose weight or keep it off.
  • Two or more times each week, include moderate or high-intensity levels of muscle-strengthening activities that involve all the major muscle groups.
  • Aim to be as active as your circumstances allow (this includes older or disabled adults).

To judge how intensely you are exercising, use this measure: When exercising moderately, you should be able to talk but not sing. In vigorous activity, you shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words before having to breathe again.


Don’t beat yourself up for not being active; begin where you are, find something you enjoy doing, do it regularly, and gradually increase the amount and vigor of the activities you enjoy. You will reap the benefits of better health.

For more information contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center or contact Glenda Kinder directly at or (816) 407-3490.






Last Updated 05/05/2009


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