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New Exercise Guidelines Say Every Bit Counts

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You might want to consider adding a brisk walk to your Thanksgiving plans. The Department of Health and Human Services has released some guidelines for physical activity and finds that approximately 80 percent of teens and adults fail to get a healthy amount of exercise.

But what exactly does that mean? How much exercise is enough? And why are so many of us not meeting the bar?

“We know that doing regular physical activity has tremendous health benefits. And for adults, the number we want to shoot for is 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week,” Katrina Piercy, federal lead for the new guidelines, said.

The activity is meant to be built up across the span of a week, so you can spread out the 2 ½ or 5 hours of activity in shorter increments. And when Pearsey speaks about the type – moderate intensity – she uses the example of a brisk walk. It’s when your heart is beating a little bit harder.

“We tend to use the ‘talk test’ to give people a sense of whether they’re in the moderate range, or the vigorous range. So, if you’re doing something moderate you can probably say a few words when you’re doing it,” Piercy said.

With vigorous activity, you can get a few words in here or there.  It’s more like a jog or running.

So, what has changed since the last set of guidelines has been released? According to Piercy, the numbers are still the same. But what’s new is information regarding different populations.

Children ages 3-5 now have a weekly target range of 3 hours of activity a week, and with kids that age, the intensity doesn’t matter. Any movement in a 3 to 5-year-old is a good thing, especially because you can create lifelong healthy habits with children this young. 

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.