Updates to Physical Activity Benefits and Guidelines

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee released its 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. The 779 page report details the most recent evidence on the benefits of physical activity, ways to achieve those benefits, and techniques for facilitating a more physically active American population. This is the first Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report since 2008. It is the evidence on which the Guide to Community Preventive Services bases its recommendations.

Some of the major findings in this most recent report include:

  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improves quality of sleep
  • Physical activity improves memory, processing speed, attention, academic performance, and other components of cognition
  • Regular physical activity reduces the risk of clinical depression as well as depressive symptoms among people both with and without clinical depression
  • Regular physical activity reduces symptoms of anxiety
  • Higher amounts of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of excessive increases in body weight and adiposity in children ages three to seventeen years old
  • Higher amounts of physical activity reduce the risk of dementia, falls, and fall-related injuries in older adults
  • More physically active women are less likely to gain excessive weight during pregnancy, develop gestational diabetes, or develop postpartum depression
  • In addition to previously known evidence that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer, this report adds bladder, endometrium, esophageal, kidney, lung, and stomach cancer to the list
  • The report upholds the 2008 recommendation that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week – only fifty percent of the U.S. population reaches this and thirty percent does no moderate-intensity physical activity at all
  • Any amount of light or moderate-intensity physical activity has health benefits – people do not need to reach 150 minutes a week before benefits begin to occur
  • For any given increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, the relative gain in benefits is greater for individuals who currently get less than 150-300 minutes than those already in this range
  • Sessions of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity of any duration can be included toward the weekly total (this differs from the 2008 report, which recommended sessions of at least ten minutes at a time)
  • Wearable activity monitors and apps can be used to enable self-monitoring, deliver messages, and provide support, all of which are helpful in promoting regular physical activity

The VIVA Connects team will be working to incorporate this latest evidence into our interventions with network communities.