Forget 4 hours a day; try 2 1/2 hours a week instead

Aparantly on Tuesday the US government released the latest exercise guidelines.

Adults should aim to get in 2 1/2 hours of exercise a week and children should run and play for at least an hour a day, according to new exercise guidelines issued by the U.S. government on Tuesday.

Wait.  What?  Did I read that right??  Did the government actually suggest a guideline that makes more sense than trying to run 4 hours a day in some completely inane attempt to “trim waistlines”?  Did they really not even mention waistlines??  I must be delusional.  Where is the punchline?  Someone pinch me.  I must know more!

The guidelines, meant to be akin to the “Food Pyramid” nutritional advice, are based on studies that show clear health benefits from regular, moderate exercise.

“More than 59 percent of adults don’t get enough physical activity and a quarter of adults aren’t active at all in their leisure time,” Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said in a telephone interview.

“I think these are the first comprehensive federal guidelines on physical activity.”

Many studies have shown that regular moderate exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, many cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other diseases.

Are you kidding?  They haven’t even dropped the “O” bomb yet.  A whole introduction without one mention of fat, waistlines, obesity kills.  Just a simple laying out of facts.  Moving your body is good for everyone, and kids should get outside and enjoy playing and running around.  Well freaking about time someone just laid out the simple facts for us all.  It isn’t as though anyone has ever bandied about the idea that exercise might prove just be beneficial to all individuals, regardless of size or any resulting weight loss.

I think of this as a good step in the right direction.  The emphasis above in the quotes may be mine but the reality is clear.  Although there is still that bit about the majority of adults not getting enough activity that tends to sound to me like pandering to the myth of sloth.  And of course there is the obligatory hat-tip to obesity further on, it is not escaped entirely (because come on, no matter what the article main-stream media is still not ready to pony up and give up ALL that tasty tasty obesity-fear-mongering rhetoric).  Although if they WERE going to put in that non-sequitor to try and tie fat to exercise at all costs I have to admit that I prefer to see the way they have phrased it than how I’ve seen it before:

The latest figures released in July from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 25.6 percent of U.S. adults are medically obese. Both poor diet and a lack of exercise are blamed.

Well indeed, yes, yes those two things ARE usually scape-goated as the sources of all evil…uh I mean fat. 

Overall the message was positive and encouraging; especially the bit about these guidelines being intended to encourage muscle-strengthening.  I mean the article framing the guidelines that I cited above certainly does try to make that little jab towards “Ha!  Yes and it all links back to obesity cause obviously fatties don’t move around enough”; BUT the guidelinesthemselves seem very all-encompassing:

    Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group. 

Key elements of the guidelines pointed to the need to use the 2.5 hours as a guide and respect the limitations of your own body’s abilities. A lot of what is written is very positive towards a diversity of ability levels and sizes.  There is an irksome reference to setting goals where one little goal that you might be considering is “How much weight do I want to lose”.  However it was part of a section suggesting that every adult consider and decide for themselves what sorts of goals to set and meet based on their needs and abilities.  There is also no set WAY that you are supposed to amass this 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of activity each week:


“[E]xisting scientific evidence does not allow researchers to say, for example, whether the health benefits of 30 minutes on 5 days a week are any different from the health benefits of 50 minutes on 3 days a week. As a result, the new Guidelines allow a person to accumulate 150 minutes a week in various ways. “ 

I think my absolute favorite part about how these guidelines have been framed is the little logo found on the one-page guide sheet.  It seems like a freaking FANTASTIC way to approach getting activity in your life and I do believe it is something I might have mentioned here before.

Be active your way by choosing activities you enjoy!

Unfortunately I do think I have to put a warning note or two though.  Some of the literature might be triggering for those who are or have suffered eating disorders as they try to assert that health benefits are great with 2.5 hours a week, even better with 5 hours a week and that researchers hadn’t studied/found a maximum level at which the benefits of increasing physical activity stopped increasing benefits to health.  So please take that with a grain of salt.

Also, the section about examining the relationship between physical activity and health seems to directly disagree with previous statements about exercise coming from a variety of activities by asserting that


“Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and performed with the goal of improving health or fitness. So, although all exercise is physical activity, not all physical activity is exercise. “ 

And this comes after saying that basically kids just need to run around the playground for an hour everyday.  I don’t think that physical activity has to be structured, or good gods repetitive, and done with the express mental focus that “THIS is for my health/fitness!” in order for it to actually help your health.  Remember, your mental health is also part of your health folks! 

Oh and nope there’s the section with the obligatory ‘Obesity is bad and it is spreading’.  Though if you read it whiel keeping in mind that references to “Healthy body weight” should not refer to BMI standards and instead to the weight at which your OWN individual body is naturally geared to rest then it is not as offensive to read and the section is brief.

Overall it is encouraging since I was questioning if the studies they reviewed were controling for weights (either by BMI or any method) and found this beauty of a quote that left me smiling and feeling like maybe there IS some hope in this crazy world of ours.  I’ll leave you with this one to finish your evenings or perhaps to start your morning tomorrow:

The health benefits of physical activity are generally independent of body weight. The good news for people [sic] is that regular physical activity provides major health benefits, no matter how their weight changes over time.


4 thoughts on “Forget 4 hours a day; try 2 1/2 hours a week instead

  1. Keep in mind: The original article that cited the Amish and 3 hours of exercise a day wasn’t recommending that people run for 3 hours a day or that they do aerobic for three hours straight. The article did note that things like housework, errands and other daily chores qualify as part of that 3 hours of exercise a day. When you consider it like that, 3 hours a day doesn’t sound nearly so extreme. How long does it take to fix dinner? And if you do the laundry or clean up around the house, I’m sure that takes a good chunk of time too. And then if you follow the government guidelines and get 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week, chances are you’re probably up to at least an hour or two, if not three hours, of exercise a day.

  2. “More than 59 percent of adults don’t get enough physical activity and a quarter of adults aren’t active at all in their leisure time,”

    This bothers me a bit. It sounds like they didn’t consider that some percentage of adults have physical jobs. If I had a job as a gardener or a house cleaner or a lumberjack, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be very active in my leisure time.

  3. Hahahaha…

    I saw this article myself and had to have a big laugh. It was just some weeks ago that we were told that it would take 4+ hours of exercise a day to be “thin”…

    And, now they say that we need 2.5 hrs A WEEK to be healthy.

    Obviously, we are focusing on the goal of “thin” as a society rather than healthy.

    I also read today that mainstream docs and journalists are now admitting that overweight (the technical term of overweight as measured by bmi… meh) people do not necessarily have any additional health problems than normal weight people.

    Okay… so why call them “OVERWEIGHT” at all? You’re not over any healthy guideline at this point. Why call it over anything? Why not just call these people normal…cuz apparently that is what they truly are anyway.

    As a woman who spent way too many years obsessed about becoming “thin” and getting rid of “fat”… I am really relieved to see some of the fat hysteria being neutralized in the mainstream. However… I’m still mad as hell that such a nasty game was played on so many people – including myself, because I didn’t know better and fell for the hysteria hook, line and sinker for way too long.

    Oh.. and I just love this website. It’s part of my daily routine. 😀

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