New exercise guidelines say starting as young as 3 is best

Laverne Higgins
November 15, 2018

Pregnant and post-partum women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio a week.

"When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better", Giroir said.

Guidelines used to begin at age 6, but the new ones say preschoolers ages 3 through 5 should be encouraged to take part in active play throughout the day. The advice is the first update since the US Government's guidelines came out a decade ago.

Background: Most adults and adolescents in the United States aren't active enough, although being physically active is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health and reduce their risk for many chronic diseases and conditions.

They call on adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity each week.

There are new key guidelines for preschool children to be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.

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The most important message from those new guidelines "is that the greatest health benefits accrue by moving from no, to even small amounts of, physical activity, especially if that activity is of moderate (e.g., brisk walking) or vigorous (e.g., jogging and running) intensity", wrote Paul Thompson, MD, of Hartford Hospital in CT and Thijs Eijsvogels, PhD, of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in an accompanying editorial. This guidance is based on evidence that increased sedentary behavior is related to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality.

"Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day". Stay ahead with the MD Mag Newsletter.

Any amount of exercise has some health benefits, officials say, and some benefits are even immediate, like better quality of sleep or reduced anxiety.

"Multiple studies demonstrate that the steepest reduction in disease risk, such as for coronary heart disease, occurs at the lowest levels of physical activity", wrote Paul Thompson, chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital, and Thijs Eijsvogels, an exercise physiology professor at Radboud University Medical Center, in an editorial accompanying the guidelines. In pregnant women, physical activity lowers the risk of postpartum depression.

Based on new evidence, the updated guidelines say exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety, slow the progression of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, and help prevent eight types of cancer in adults.

"We urge other health groups and interested parties across the country to adopt the guidelines and join us in committing to help ensure more people get moving", said Dr. Ivor Benjamin, the group's president, adding that exercise can "help people live longer, healthier lives for themselves, their families and their communities".

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