Even 2 minutes of physical activity has tangible benefits

Any amount of physical activity – even if it’s two minutes – has both short- and long-term health benefits, says a new version of the US Physical Activity Guidelines.

The previous edition of the document recommended physical activity of at least 10 minutes a day.

New research has shown that any small amount of activity makes a significant contribution to a person’s health. This was reported at the annual conference of the American Heart Association in Chicago. The guidelines are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Here are the important messages of the new guidelines:

  • Even a single episode of physical activity can make your mind sharper, ease anxiety, help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and help your body’s ability to turn sugar into energy.
  • Regular physical activity improves brain health and reduces the risk of eight forms of cancer and gaining excess weight.
  • Physical activity improves the course of chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and depression.
  • Exercise improves brain function in people with dementia, multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
    “A little but regular exercise is the cheapest prescription in the world, but most people don’t want to fill it,” says Eileen Handeberg, a professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The weekly recommended amount of activity for adults remains the same: 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise, including strength training, two days a week.

Children under 5 years of age are advised to be active for at least three hours a day to improve growth and development. Children aged 6-17 should preferably get one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

Pregnant and postpartum women are reminded of their recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Older people are recommended to add balance exercises to aerobic and strength exercises.

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