Daily Cup of Wellness

America as a whole does not rank very highly on the physical fitness scale. This is news to exactly no one. People are too fond of fast food, get too little exercise and are too in love with their phones to take good care of themselves. That said, the latest report by the Department of Health and Human Services reveals that the number of fit Americans is even lower than anyone imagined. Less than a third of American adults and fewer than 20 percent of teenagers meet the new physical fitness guidelines issued by the federal government.

The guidelines call on adults to get two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity over the course of each week. Children between the ages of six and 17 should get at least an hour of moderate intensity aerobic activity each day and take part in three sessions of muscle strengthening per week. Examples of moderate intensity aerobic activity include a brisk walk or riding a bike on level ground. Muscle strengthening activity includes shoveling snow and doing yoga. Minor bits of exercise such as parking father away from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator count toward weekly and daily totals as well.

In addition to subtle changes to the exercise requirements for adults, decreased sitting time was emphasized, and children under the age of six were included for the first time. The guidelines also noted exactly how expensive America’s lack of physical activity has become. Failure to meet recommended levels of aerobic physical activity is estimated to cost nearly $117 billion each year and accounts for nearly 10 percent of all premature death.

Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir said the guidelines were “truly a call for action,” and Russell Pate, a University of South Carolina exercise science professor, said that he was “very hopeful” that actions to increase American’s aerobic activity, especially in children, will be “widely adopted over the next decade.” Whether his hopes come true remain to be seen, but there is no doubt America as a whole could benefit from a lot less sitting and a lot more sweating.

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