Good news! Cleaning out that closet, straightening up the house, and sweeping out the garage are forms of exercise. Incidental activity bouts of less than 10 minutes duration are now being recognized as having heart-healthy benefits in the same way as more formal types of exercise.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a revised edition of their Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans meant to detail the physical activity recommendations they released for all age groups in November 2018. These updated guidelines have been adopted by the American Heart Association. In the revised guidelines HHS dropped the requirement for activity to be a minimum of 10 minutes duration to be viewed as exercise, expanded the list of health benefits attributed to exercise and gave specific evidence-based recommendations for how to build more activity into your day.
Essentially the same are the suggested minutes of activity per week: 150-300 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Muscle strengthening exercises are recommended to be done on 2 non-consecutive days per week.
What’s new to the guidelines is the support of a more generally active lifestyle. The most important bit of advice in terms of adding minutes of activity or in terms of movement intensity: “start low and go slow”. You might look at it as reducing the number of minutes that you are sedentary rather than how many minutes you are dancing, gardening or walking. HHS also recommends that engaging in fitness-leader directed group activities better insures sticking with the routine of adding more active minutes to your day: think community center walking clubs, Masters swim workouts at a local gym, Senior Centers that offer dance or yoga classes or Tai Chi Easy practice groups in the park which are peer-led and free of charge. These opportunities also involve social engagement which builds relationships and enlarges your support system.
So, in many ways, there are now many more possible ways of weaving active minutes into your day which can reduce the number of fall-related injuries, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and support cognitive health. So what’s your game plan?