New Federal Exercise Recommendations

The New York Times

Very Brief Workouts Count Toward 150-Minute Goal, New Guidelines Say

New federal exercise recommendations include the first-ever federal activity parameters for 3-year-olds, as well as a few surprising omissions.

CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

As of Monday, the United States has new federal physical-activity guidelines. The new guidelines, which represent a scientific consensus about how much and what types of physical activities we should complete for good health, bear a strong resemblance to the existing, 10-year-old governmental recommendations. But they also feature some important updates and expansions, including the first-ever federal activity parameters for 3-year-olds, as well as a few surprising omissions.

And they offer a subtle, admonitory reminder that a substantial majority of us are not moving nearly as much as we should.

The idea that the government might suggest how much we need to exercise is relatively new. The first federal exercise recommendations were released in 2008, after several years of scientific background study.

 

During that time, an advisory board of researchers, most of them from academia, scoured the available scientific literature for clues about the relationships between physical activity and health and how much and what types of exercise seemed best able to lengthen people’s life spans and reduce their risks for disease.

Using that information, they assembled and presented a scientific report to the Department of Health and Human Services, which used it as the basis for the original 2008 guidelines.

Most of us probably know what those guidelines suggested.

In essence, they called for adults who are not disabled to complete at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or other activities that raise people’s heart rates and breathing to the point that they can talk to a companion but cannot, should they be so inclined, sing.

The guidelines also noted that 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as jogging, would be equally effective but that the exercise, whatever its intensity, should take place in nonstop bouts of at least 10 minutes at a time and preferably every day.

Adults were urged, too, to do some type of strength training twice a week, while children older than 6 and teenagers were told to exercise moderately for at least 60 minutes a day.

 

That was 10 years ago. Since then, exercise scientists have published a mountain’s worth of new research about the health effects of physical activity — and of sitting — and of how much time we really need to spend in motion.

So two years ago, the Department of Health and Human Services convened a new panel of scientific advisers to sift through this research and provide updated exercise recommendations.

Earlier this year, that group delivered a 779-page scientific report to H.H.S., from which the new recommendations were devised.

To the surprise of some scientists and other observers, these guidelines, which were published on Monday in JAMA, are broadly the same as the previous set.

Again, they call for adults to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, along with strength training twice a week.

They also suggest balance training for older people and, for the first time, urge kids between the ages of 3 and 5 to be active for at least three hours a day, an acknowledgment that even small children run the risk of being too sedentary these days.

 

The most substantive change in the new recommendations involves how long each bout of exercise should be. The new guidelines say they do not need to last for 10 minutes.

Any physical activity, no matter how brief, including walking up stairs or from the car to the office, provides health benefits, according to the new guidelines, and counts toward exercise goals.

Using these parameters, “it will be much easier” for people to accumulate the desired 150 weekly minutes of moderate activity, says Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at H.H.S., who oversaw the development of the formal guidelines.

This idea is captured in a new H.H.S. website cheerfully titled “Move Your Way” that summarizes the latest guidelines.

But despite this expansiveness, the 2018 recommendations do not cover some types or aspects of exercise, including high-intensity interval training. Although these brief, intense workouts are popular and widely studied, the guidelines’ writers felt that more research was needed about their safety and effects.

For the same reason, the guidelines do not set a target for how much — or little — time people should spend sitting or how many steps they should take each day, instead reiterating that the best goal is 150 minutes a week of activity.

Helpfully, the new guidelines do include some practical proposals for increasing exercise, including having health care workers ask people about their exercise habits during every appointment and employers promote physical activity at work.

But such efforts are voluntary, of course, and may be unable to overcome the greatest challenge facing the implementation of the new guidelines, which is us.

Despite 10 years of hearing that we should be moving more, few of us are.

Only about 20 percent of American adults meet the existing recommendations, and a third never work out at all, statistics show.

But Admiral Giroir says he believes that the new guidelines can and should inspire large numbers of people to get moving.

“They are so simple,” he says. “You can walk, dance, mow your lawn, park your car a little farther away. It all counts and could really make an impact on people’s health.”

New Study Finds Positive Correlation Between Team Sports and Mental Health

Women’s Sports Foundation

Researchers, including the team at the Women’s Sports Foundation, have long underscored the positive physical benefits that come with playing sports. A recent study published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal advanced the conversation by further analyzing the effects of sports on mental health.

Reviewing data from more than 1.2 million responses to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, the researchers concluded that “physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden.” The report asserts that exercise can ease the burden of a variety of mental health issues, including mild depression, anxiety, panic attacks and stress.

To conduct the research, the authors of the cross-sectional study looked at data from CDC surveys given to adults 18 or over in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The study, which concerns survey responses derived from a one-month period, compares the number of self-reported bad mental health days between individuals who exercised and those who didn’t.

The conclusion? All exercise is good for mental health, but some forms are more beneficial than others.

The report indicates that “individuals who exercised had 1.49 (43.2%) fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise but were otherwise matched for several physical and sociodemographic characteristics.”

“Even just walking just three times a week seems to give people better mental health than not exercising at all,” Adam Shekroud, an author of the study and Yale University psychiatry professor, told CNN. “I think from a public health perspective, it’s pretty important because it shows that we can have the potential for having a pretty big impact on mental health for a lot of people.”

Not all exercise is created equal when it comes to mental health though, the study found. Team sports had the largest association with a lower mental health burden, with a 22.3% reduction. Cycling and aerobic and gym exercises were next, at 21.6% and 20.1%, respectively. The best amount of time to exercise in terms of mental health is approximately 45 minutes three to four times per week, according to the report.

The study was published in August 2018, but has seen the most traction in the media in the last two weeks. In a climate where mental health is becoming increasingly destigmatized — particularly in athletics, where athletes have begun speaking out about their battles with mental health issues — the research is more relevant than ever.

Researchers Draw Link Between Physical Activity, Academic Success

EdWeek

Beyond the fitness-related benefits, physical activity can also contribute to students’ academic success, suggests a consensus statement published online Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A group of 24 international experts gathered in Denmark back in April “to reach evidence-based consensus about physical activity and youth.” They wound up with a 21-point list divided into four themes: fitness and health; cognitive functioning; engagement, motivation, psychological well-being; and inclusion and physical activity implementation strategies.

When it comes to academics, the researchers concluded that “physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are beneficial to brain structure, brain function, and cognition in children and youth.” Additionally, they suggested “a single session of moderate physical activity has an acute benefit to brain function, cognition, and scholastic performance in children and youth.”

There’s been plenty of research in recent years to back up these assertions. In September 2014, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE found physical activity during recess in 1st grade to be directly correlated to reading fluency in 1st and 2nd grades. A study published in the same journalthe previous September suggested higher levels of aerobic fitness could bolster a child’s ability to learn and remember information. In March 2014, a study found Kansas elementary and middle school students who met certain physical-fitness benchmarks to be considerably more likely to exceed reading and math performance standards.

Accordingly, the Copenhagen Consensus experts concluded that time taken away from academic lessons in favor of physical activity won’t “come at the cost of scholastic performance.” Research suggests there’s a tangible academic benefit to giving students a physical-activity break between hours of lessons, even if it comes at the expense of a few extra minutes of classroom time.

The Copenhagen researchers also found physical activity to have “the potential to positively influence psychological and social outcomes” for students, “such as self-esteem and relationships with peers, parents, and coaches.” They suggested “close relationships and peer group acceptance in physical activity are positively related to perceived competence, intrinsic motivation and participation behavior” in children. The experts particularly endorsed physical-activity programs with “an intentional curriculum and deliberate training,” as they are “effective at promoting life skills and core values” such as respect, social responsibility and self-regulation.

The consensus statement authors highlighted schools as a major asset when it comes to physical activity, as socioeconomic factors may limit some children’s activity opportunities outside of school hours. Having bike lanes, parks, and playgrounds at schools “are both effective strategies for providing equitable access to, and enhancing physical activity for, children and youth,” they concluded.

Most Teens Aren’t Active Enough, And It’s Not Always Their Fault

NPR

Members of the Jr. Peewee Gators do a drill during an early-season practice for Pop Warner football on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun /Landov

Sure, you think, my kid’s on a football team. That takes care of his exercise needs, right? Probably not.

“There are these bursts of activity,” says Jim Sallis, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “But if you think about it, one hour of playing football out on the field means that the vast majority of that time is spent standing around waiting for the next play.”

And that’s a problem, federal health officials say, because children need at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

“We know that physical activity in childhood strengthens your bones, increases your muscle mass,” says Tala Fakhouri, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It also has effects on psychological well-being in kids and teens. It increases their capacity for learning, their self-esteem and it may also help them deal with stress.”

The findings are worrisome in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic, Sallis says. There’sincreased evidence that children who are overweight are more likely to be obese as adults.

But just one in four young teenagers between ages 12 and 15 actually get that one hour of exercise every day, Fakhouri says. She analyzed federal health data gathered from 800 teenagers in 2012.

While kids may be active in childhood, it’s typical to see a decline as they move into their teen years. “We know, for example, that sedentary behaviors like watching TV are the single biggest contributor to physical inactivity in adolescence,” Fakhouri says.

But it’s not that teenagers no longer enjoy sports.

In the study, teenage boys said their favorite physical activities outside of gym class were basketball, running, football, bicycling and walking. Girls favored running, walking, basketball, dancing and bicycling.

Most studies of physical activity find boys more active than girls, and this one was no different. It found that 27 percent of boys and 22.5 percent of girls got the recommended one hour of exercise daily. That includes gym class, organized activities and play.

There's a reason she's out there all alone. Children worldwide are spending less time on sports and active play and more time with TVs and video games.

 

It’s not necessarily teenagers’ fault that they’re not more active, researchers say.

Parents worry about safety when their kids go outside. They worry about bullying from other kids and crime in urban neighborhoods. Sallis adds that a surprising number of parents are concerned about traffic. “They don’t want their kids to go out because traffic is so bad. There’s no safe place to cross the street,” he says.

But organized classes or teams aren’t the only option.

Families can make small changes in their schedule to build in more exercise, Fakhouri says. “You can take a long walk after dinner. You can take your dog on long walk. Play basketball, dance together.”

And with many schools reducing or cutting out PE, Sallis says parents may have to put pressure on the schools, too.

“Look at what’s happening in PE,” Sallis says. “If they’re not going out at all or very much, complain about that. If you see PE class and it’s not very active, inform the principal that that’s not acceptable.”

Bottom line: Physically active kids become physically active adults. And that’s another critical reason, Sallis says, to help your kids get out and get moving.

The Overlooked Secret to Great Performance

The New York Times

BY TONY SCHWARTZ
Ignore exercise, and you will get progressively weaker, and more vulnerable to illness.Matthew Peyton for The New York TimesIgnore exercise, and you will get progressively weaker, and more vulnerable to illness.

Think of a time when you were performing at your best and another occasion when you were performing at your worst. Now, take a few moments to visualize the two occasions in your mind.

The vast difference between these two experiences has nothing to do with your inborn talent or your skills. How much of your capacity you bring to work on any given day depends, to a large degree, on how much energy you’ve got in your tank.

Obvious as that seems, we underestimate how much impact taking care of ourselves — and feeling taken care of — has on our performance.  Unlike machines, which run on a single source of energy, human beings require four types of fuel to perform at their best: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Each of these influences one another, and none is sufficient by itself.

Physical energy is the core fuel we require to get things done. Everything we do rests on that foundation, and how we feel is influenced by what we eat and when, how much we exercise, whether or not we renew our energy intermittently through the day and how many hours we sleep.

Go without eating for five or six hours, for example, and you’re depriving the brain of its ravenous need for glucose. Work continuously for multiple hours without a break, and you’re progressively depleting your capacity to remain calm and collected under pressure. Ignore exercise, and you will get progressively weaker, and more vulnerable to illness.

No single behavior in our lives matters more than sleep, because without enough of it — a minimum of seven to eight hours for 97 percent of us — the toll shows up in every aspect of our lives. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a toll, for example, on vigilance on a task, our mental agility on tasks, our mood and even our motivation.

The second fuel in our lives is emotional. We assume we’re rational beings, but it turns out we’re run largely by our emotions, for better and for worse. Think again about how you feel when you’re performing at your best. We’ve asked this question to tens of thousands of people over the years and the adjectives people describe are always the same: energized, excited, happy, positive, engaged and in the flow.

Put simply, we perform best when we’re feeling high positive emotions, and we perform less well as our feelings move in the direction of anger, frustration, impatience and fear — all of which are also draining, and antagonizing to others. Just being aware that negative emotions undermine us can be a powerful impetus to address them.

Psychologists like Roy Baumeister have long written about our “negativity bias” — the default inclination to focus more on what is wrong in our lives than what’s right. While we’re wired to be vigilant to threat, it’s also possible to consciously cultivate positive emotions.

Taking time to appreciate one’s bounty and express gratitude all serve this end. So, too, does spending time with people we care about deeply, which helps explain why having a close friend at work has a powerful and positive impact on engagement and performance at work.

The mental fuel we require to perform at our best is focus, and more so than ever in a world of infinite distractions. Control of our attention — the capacity to put our focus where we want it to be — makes it possible not just to get the right work done, but also to intentionally shape our experience. Attention, like any other muscle, gets stronger when we train it — which helps explain why practices like mindfulness are suddenly generating so much interest in organizations

The fourth fuel that influences our performance is the sense of purpose we bring to our work. Is there any doubt that we feel more positive — and bring more passion and focus to what we do — when we believe what we’re doing really matters? Paradoxically, the more we invest in adding value to others, the better we feel about ourselves.

Just as we underestimate how much these sources of fuel influence our performance, so do the organizations for which we work. Few companies or leaders I’ve encountered systematically focus on, and invest in, how their employees feel, even though doing so would serve their bottom line.

The 2012 Global Workforce Study conducted by the consulting firm Towers Watson measured the relationship between engagement — the willingness of employees to invest discretionary effort at work — and financial results. The key for the most highly engaged employees turned out to be their ability to maintain their energy and enthusiasm at work.

The differentiating factor among companies with the most highly engaged employees was an environment that supported people’s physical, emotional and social well-being. Companies that did this least well had an average operating margin of 10 percent. Companies that best supported employees had an average operating margin of 27 percent.

It’s a dual challenge. Organizations stand to improve performance by helping their employees feel better every day. We perform better and more sustainably when we take better care of ourselves.

10 Ways To Help Boost Your Child’s Intelligence

Access this link for details on the following 10 things that you can do to help boost your child’s intelligence:

1. Play Brain Games

2. Make Music

3. Breast Feed

4. Foster Fitness

5. Play Video Games

6. Junk the Junk Food

7. Nurture Curiosity

8. Read

9. Teach Confidence

10. Breakfast Breeds Champions