New Exercise Guidelines Stress Movement as Medicine

As a country, it’s generally understood that people need to exercise more. New fitness guidelines by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, however, suggest we have a long way to go.

According to the guidelines, people of all ages need to put more of a premium on making movement and exercise a critical part of their daily routines. A whopping 80 percent of U.S. adults and kids, it reports, aren’t getting all the exercise they need for optimal health.

That’s a big number, to be sure. But as a country, efforts continue to push toward a culture shift where people start to realize what physical therapists have been preaching for years: that movement really is good medicine, and that staying active is as vital to us as eating, sleeping and breathing.

The new guidelines, released in November of 2018 and titled “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition,” outline exercise guidelines for all ages, from the needs of preschool children (3 to 5 years) to older adults. It also outlines fitness guidelines for new and expecting moms, as well and adults with chronic conditions and disabilities.

Read “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition” document at

The new guidelines, based on age, are as follows:

  • Preschool children (ages 3 to 5) should be encouraged to remain active throughout the day, which will help enhance growth and development.
  • Children and adolescents (ages 6 to 17) should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily involving aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening exercises.
  • Adults should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise, each week. They should also do muscle-building exercises twice each week.
  • Older adults should add balance training to their aerobic and muscle-training routines while still shooting for the same guidelines they had as younger adults, depending on their fitness levels and potential chronic conditions.

These guidelines reiterate that when physical therapists say the exercise is medicine, they really mean it.

After all, exercise can make it possible for a person to feel, function and sleep better; it fosters normal growth and development in children; and it can even reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and conditions like heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and even chronic pain.

If you have an injury, movement deficiency, weakness or pain that is holding you back from achieving these fitness guidelines or individual fitness or lifestyle goals you have for yourself, visit a physical therapist for a complete assessment. Physical therapists can help you establish a fitness regimen that takes individual limitations and goals into account, ensuring you find an optimal path toward a healthier future.