Even a 2-Minute Walk Counts in New Physical Activity Guidelines

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Take the stairs up to your office. Park a little further away from the grocery store. Walk your dog around the block. Carry out the trash.

Any amount of physical activity -- even two minutes' worth -- can add up to huge benefits for your immediate and long-term health, according to the new edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Previously, the guidelines held that unless physical activity lasted 10 minutes or longer, it didn't count toward a person's recommended weekly activity goals.

But research has shown any small amount of activity provides a solid contribution to a person's health, according to the second edition of the guidelines unveiled Monday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

"Physical activity is about finding opportunities to add movement throughout the day as part of a bigger commitment to healthy living," Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said during a media briefing on the guidelines.

"Inactivity causes 10 percent of premature mortality in the United States. That means if we can just get 25 percent of inactive people to be active and meet the recommendations, almost 75,000 deaths would be prevented in the United States," Giroir added.

Only 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women and 20 percent of teenagers currently get their recommended weekly amount of physical activity, according to HHS.

"This has health and economic consequences for the nation, with nearly $117 billion in annual health care costs attributable to failure to meet the aerobic physical activity recommended in the guidelines," Giroir noted.

The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines came out a decade ago, in 2008.

The new edition also highlights a broader array of short- and long-term benefits from physical activity, all based on scientific evidence:

  • Just a single bout of physical activity can sharpen your mind, reduce your anxiety, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and strengthen your body's ability to convert blood sugar into energy.
  • Regular physical activity can improve your brain health, reduce your risk of eight different forms of cancer, and lower your risk for excess weight gain.
  • Chronic health conditions improved by physical activity include osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression.
  • Exercise also helps improve brain function in people with dementia, multiple sclerosis, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson's disease.