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What are the Different Types of Physical Activity Guidelines?

By Patti Kate
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Physical activity guidelines set by the United States government have been established to help Americans of all ages maintain a healthy level of physical activity. These guidelines vary, taking into account age and physical condition. For instance, physical activity guidelines differ for children, adults, and senior citizens. There are also physical activity guidelines for pregnant women and for individuals who are physically disabled.

One of the important physical activity guidelines describes how much activity children should get. School-aged children and adolescents should aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day to achieve maximum benefits. It's recommended that children incorporate cardiovascular, or aerobic exercises, with techniques to strengthen muscles. For children with physical disabilities or chronic disease, guidelines may differ.

Recommended activities for children include hiking, bicycle riding, and skating. Brisk walking may also be considered beneficial for active children, if done in conjunction with other weekly activities. Jumping rope, playing active games such as hopscotch, and running are also beneficial for children. Organized sports such as baseball and hockey are other choices that can help children stay fit and healthy.

Physical activity guidelines for adults age 18 to 64 are designed to thwart the development of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. The guidelines suggest moderate physical activity of at least two and a half hours per week for both men and women. Adults with diabetes or cancer may have different guidelines to follow in a physical fitness program. Pregnant women and people recovering from surgery should follow a different set of physical activity guidelines.

Adults older than 65 should follow physical activity guidelines designed for the needs of aging people. These guidelines are generally the same for active adults 18 to 64, with the exception of seniors who have chronic illnesses. Some of the recommended activities for active and older adults who have no chronic illnesses are dancing and walking. Swimming, tennis, and golf are other sports that can increase fitness levels in active adults.

Regardless of a person's age or physical limitations, people should consult with a health care provider before beginning an exercise program. A physician or therapist can offer guidance and suggestions regarding physical activities best suited for individual needs. This is especially important for those with disabilities or for adults who have been living an inactive or sedentary lifestyle.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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