By: Kathleen Berger in collaboration with University of Missouri Health Care
About 80 percent of U.S. teens and adults are not active enough, according to a report issued by the federal government. Near the end of 2018, many Americans had failed to meet physical activity guidelines. In November 2018, new federal guidelines for exercise offer objectives that Americans can incorporate into their daily routines.
New federal guidelines suggest that adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, and now even just two minutes of activity counts toward the goal of active minutes. Prior guidelines had called for at least 10 minutes of activity for it to count.
“Being physically active doesn’t need to require a huge commitment or a lot of time in the gym,” said Steve Ball, professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and one of the nation’s leading experts on fitness and exercise. “Sometimes it can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away than normal.”
Ball advises adults to remember that daily exercise does not have to be done in one setting.
“When it comes to exercise some always is better than none,” he said. “More is better than some and too much is difficult to get.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate-intensity activity includes walking briskly, riding a bike on level ground with few hills and playing doubles tennis.
Ball said that for people to stick to fitness goals, they need to focus not only on outcome goals, but goals related to the process of being physically active.
“Too often people set fitness goals without a plan to get there,” Ball said. “Process goals, such as a commitment to working out three times a week, are more manageable for someone just starting out than outcome goals, such as wanting six-pack abs.”
Ball says attending classes is a great way to hold yourself accountable. However, he notes that physical activity does not need to be measured or considered ‘exercise’ to be beneficial.
Ball provides four tips to move more, sit less and stay on track with fitness goals:
- Don’t skip physical activity. Even finding small ways to fit in moving, including scheduling a walk, completing household chores or finding time in the mornings for physical activity, can be helpful in staying on track with goals and resolutions.
- Ask for help. Too often people set goals and then don’t have the knowledge or expertise to figure out a plan to achieve them. This can lead to frustration. Ball encourages beginners to seek out a class, trainer or program where they can seek advice and best practices.
- Lean on a friend. Working out with a friend, partner or even a child can keep a person on track. Accountability can be a major motivator to keep people going after the initial excitement of a resolution wears off. Encouraging active play with children also is a critical step in helping children as young as three years old establish good health habits.
- Recognize that barriers exist. Plan activities in advance, which can help when ‘life gets in the way.’ For example, when Ball travels, he scouts the area for local gyms and parks and is sure to know when obligations are scheduled so that he can schedule around those events.