If you're starting 2019 with fitness goals in mind, new national guidelines on physical activity should be encouraging, since research shows that every minute of movement matters.
Each January, many of us start the new year vowing to become a different, better version of ourselves. Often that means a version that moves more. And just in time for this year's resolutions, the Department of Health and Human Services updated its physical activity guidelines.
The recent changes are more subtle than substantial, says Michael Joyner, M.D. "The basic idea is still trying to get 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous physical activity or 75 minutes of more vigorous physical activity," Dr. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and human performance expert at Mayo Clinic, tells Mayo Clinic Radio. The big change in the recommendations, he says, is "now you can take it in small bites."
Previous guidelines indicated that for movement to count toward your weekly total, you needed to clock at least 10 consecutive minutes of activity. Not anymore. "There was new observational evidence that almost any level of exercise was useful, and that it could be in smaller bites than 10 minutes," Dr. Joyner says in this Mayo Clinic Minute. "A minute here, a minute there — whatever you can do, whenever you can do it is fine. It adds up in a positive way."
Those small bursts of activity — what Dr. Joyner calls "incidental physical activity" — really do make a difference. That means any movement you can add to your day, from taking the stairs to playing tag with your kids, can help you get healthier. "The goal is just to build up a large cumulative amount over the day and to try and get as much incidental physical activity as possible," Dr. Joyner says.
While aerobic activity is important, Dr. Joyner tells Mayo Clinic Radio that the guidelines for strength training are perhaps even more so. Especially as we age. "As people get older they lose muscle mass," he says. That loss leads to falls and makes it harder to do things like get out of a car, open a jar or stand up after playing with grandkids. "The data shows that about 70 percent of 70 year olds can't get off the floor because they're so weak," Dr. Joyner tells the program.
While virtually everyone will experience some loss of muscle mass in their later decades, strength training can significantly delay the onset and reduce the rate of age-related muscle loss. People who retain muscle mass as they age are "almost like a different species of humans," Dr. Joyner says. And you don't have to become a Cross-Fit champion to reap those benefits. Just two strength training sessions a week will pump you up enough to turn back time. Or to at least feel like you have.
You can learn more about the guidelines, including recommendations for children, here. Then pump us up with your comments below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.