Physical Activity Guidelines Target All Iowans

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Jane Brower's doctor recently told her to start doing some floor exercises to help manage her chronic back problems. The 51-year-old Central Iowa resident started with fifteen minutes a day. Then she added 20 minutes three times a week on the elliptical machine or walking. "Pretty soon, my back problems and many other little aches and pains just disappeared," Brower said. Feeling more energetic, Brower added some variety to her routine by doing some moderate weight lifting. "Next thing I knew, my husband and I were going on long bike rides once or twice a week. Being more active has just become a habit, I guess."

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Logging about three and a half hours of physical activity per week, it appears Brower was ahead of the curve. According to guidelines for physical activity released today from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a woman Brower's age with her particular risk factors needs 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five or more times per week. Her nieces and nephew, now in elementary school, should get at least 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Additionally, the new guidelines encourage kids this age to maintain a balance of muscle-strengthening exercise (such as tug-of-war), aerobic movement (bike riding), and bone-strengthening activities (jumping rope). And Grandma? Since she's at risk of falls, she needs at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times per week, especially in the areas of balance training and muscle-strengthening.

"More than 29 percent of Iowans now spend two hours a day watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer as leisure activity," said Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom Newton. "While we all need to relax, each of us also needs to make sure to get enough physical activity. With these new guidelines, every Iowan will be able to pinpoint exactly how much time he or she needs to be active."

Just as the traditional food pyramid was redesigned in 2005 to reflect dietary needs based on individual age and activity level, public health now recommends different levels and types of physical activity for eight different groups of Americans based on age and weight-management criteria. Regular physical activity supports a healthy weight, heart health, chronic disease prevention and management, and muscle and bone strength. But you don't have to tell Jane Brower. "I feel great, I've lost a few pounds, and my bottle of ibuprofen is now in the back of the medicine cabinet… where it belongs!"

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