New Dietary Guidelines Highlight Importance of Physical Activity

Expending calories through physical activity is "critical" for achieving and maintaining an appropriate body weight, says USDA 

Download in Adobe PDF 

ALEXANDRIA, VA, February 2, 2011 — In light of new dietary guidelines that call for Americans to increase their physical activity while decreasing their caloric intake to help manage their weight, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging individuals of all ages and abilities, particularly those with preexisting conditions and/or disabilities, to consider the advice of a physical therapist before starting an exercise program.

Issued by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 suggest that individuals look to HHS' 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for guidance on the amount and types of exercise needed for health benefits. For most adults, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week is required to achieve and maintain a healthful body weight. Adults also should include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week. For children and adolescents ages 6 years and older, HHS recommends 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day, which can be achieved through "short bursts" of time. At least 3 days a week children and adolescents should engage in muscle-strengthening physical activity.

"We applaud USDA and HHS for explicitly stating the importance of physical activity in attaining and maintaining a healthful weight," said physical therapist and APTA spokesperson Ethel Frese, PT, DPT. "However, for individuals who have led sedentary lifestyles, who are overweight or obese, or who have a physical disability becoming physically active or increasing activity can be a challenge. Physical therapists' extensive knowledge of health conditions allows them to examine people of all ages and abilities and design safe and effective physical activity programs that help establish life-long habits of physical activity."

Specifically, the new dietary guidelines include "key" recommendations that USDA says are "the most important in terms of their implications for improving public health." The 2 key recommendations for balancing calories to manage weight are:

  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors.
  • Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors.

The new dietary guidelines come one month into 2011, just as many people who made New Year's resolutions to get fit are abandoning them. In January, to help individuals keep their New Year's resolutions while avoiding injury and working the major muscle groups of the body, APTA launched a month-long Twitter campaign that included 12 instructional videos featuring physical therapist and APTA member Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT. In the videos, Gillanders demonstrates correct posture and form for selected core, leg, shoulder, and arm exercises that can be done at home or at the gym.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 77,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area. Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.