It’s well known that regular physical activity can lead to many long-lasting health benefits. In fact, physical fitness is considered to be one of the most important markers to predict cardiovascular disease and mortality. What is physical fitness? Physical fitness encompasses a variety of fitness-related metrics such as aerobic endurance, strength, flexibility body composition and core strength.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the first ever Federal Physical Activity Guidelines to help Americans age 6 and older improve their health. According to the physical activity guidelines, being physically active is one of the most important decisions that Americans can make to improve their health.  The Federal Guidelines describe the benefits of regular physical activity:

  1. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many adverse health outcomes
  2. Some physical activity is better than none
  3. For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration
  4. Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity
  5. Both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity are beneficial
  6. Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in very racial and ethnic group
  7. The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities
  8. The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse health outcomes

Below are the Federal recommendations for physical activity in a condensed version:

Type Children & Adolescents Adults Older Adults
Aerobic >60 minutes/day should be at moderate – or vigorous-intensity and should include vigorous-intensity at least 3 days/wk At least 150 minutes/wk of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes/wk of vigorous-intensity, or an equivalent combination of intensities. Should be performed in bouts of at least 10 consecutive minutes. Same as adults. If you cannot do 150 minutes because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
Muscle-strengthening As a part of their > 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity, they should include muscle-strengthening activity on at least 3 days/wk Moderate or high intensity and involve major muscle groups on 2 or more days/wk Same as adults. Should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if you are at an increased risk of falling.
Bone-strengthening At least 3 days/wk

For young people, it’s important to encourage them to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety. Further, physical activity should be progressed over time to meet or exceed the guidelines. The above recommendations are for general health benefits. For additional health benefits, you should engage in physical activity beyond the above recommendations. As always, it should always be performed in a safe and effective manner.

Recently, there was a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise by Marques et al. (2015). In the study, which included 2,506 youths (10-18 yr range), authors assessed the relationship between physical activity, sedentary time (time spent being physically inactive), and health-related fitness. They concluded that those youth who spent more time performing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity resulted in greater physical fitness and, by extension, better health. These results lend more support to the Federal Guidelines and reinforce the importance of promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviors in youth. Another crucial point to address is that starting these behaviors when they are young helps establish a healthy routine that they will likely continue into adolescent and adult-hood! This is a great thing!!!

So, what does moderate and vigorous intensity mean? What’s moderate intensity physical activity for me? How do I establish it? We’ll cover that in my next blog post. Stay tuned and until then, keep moving!

Best in Health,

Ed Davila

Ridge Personal Trainer Eddie DavilaAbout the Author: Ed Davila is the Director of Fitness at the Ridge Athletic Clubs. He is certified as a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist & Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine.


Marques, A., R. Santon, U. Ekelund, and L. B. Sardinha. Association between physical activity, sedentary time, and healthy fitness in youth. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2015). 47(3); 575-580.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: Healthier US Gov