The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new exercise guidelines on November 12 – for the first time in a decade. The recommendations state that Americans should sit less and move more, but there is good news for those who don’t particularly enjoy a 5-mile run: The guidelines say it’s perfectly fine to exercise in small doses. 
The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published in JAMA, don’t really contain any earth-shattering changes from the old guidelines, which were released in 2008. However, there is a noticeable difference in tone.
Many adults know that in the long run, exercise can reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more health problems than you can shake a FitBit, but the new guidelines attempt to encourage more people to become active by reminding them of the more immediate perks of moving around.
The guidelines note for the first time that improved cognitive function, mental health, and sleep quality are some of the easily and readily-attainable perks of exercise.
Best of all, you can exercise throughout the day, through simple things. Not being able to get to the gym for an hour after work doesn’t mean you can’t get moving and reap the benefits. For some, that might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator; for others, that might mean picking a more distant parking spot.
In fact, the most noticeable difference between the 2008 guidelines and the 2018 guidelines is that the new standards encourage people to “move more and sit less throughout the day.” The 2 versions of the guidelines remind adults that “some physical activity is better than none.”
The committee of health experts wrote: 
“Current evidence shows that the total volume of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is related to many health benefits; bouts of prescribed duration are not essential.”
The New Standards
Just like the 2008 guidelines, the new guidelines recommend that:
- Adults aim to partake in at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (such as running), at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as a brisk walk), or a combination of the 2, every week.
- Adults should engage in muscle-strengthening exercises, such as resistance training or weight-lifting, at least 2 days a week. 
The elderly, too, are encouraged to be more physically active, though their goals are a bit tamer.
- The guidelines urge older adults to prioritize activities that combine muscle-strengthening, balance, and aerobic exercise, as these can help make up for the bone and muscle loss associated with aging.
- The guidelines also state that elderly Americans should tailor their activity levels with their health abilities.
As well, the physical activity recommendations for children are less intense and less stringent than those intended for adults.
- Kids should keep moving to avoid unnecessary weight gain and future chronic diseases, the guidelines say.
- Preschool-age children – specifically mentioned in the guidelines for the first time – should be physically active throughout the day. This recommendation was not included in the 2008 version.
- School-age children and teenagers should aim for at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a day, including muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises on some of those days, according to the guidelines.
Furthermore, the new guidelines include specific recommendations for pregnant women, who may lower their risk of gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain by adhering to the standards.
- All pregnant and postpartum women are urged to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Those who were physically active before becoming pregnant can continue their regular routines, the guidelines state.
More is Better. Some is Better than None.
Finally, the guidelines note that the higher a person’s physical activity level, the greater the health benefits tend to be. So, if you can get in 300 minutes of weekly exercise, go for it. But, if for some reason, you can only accomplish light physical activity (walking, cleaning, or running errands), these activities can still improve your mental health and longevity.
Read: Exercise as Effective as Drugs at Treating Heart Disease, Strokes
Approximately 80% of Americans don’t reach the minimum recommendations for physical activity. This lack of physical activity costs taxpayers about $17 billion in healthcare costs each year. 
If you are desk- or cubicle-bound or otherwise sedentary, you can boost your health by getting up and moving around every half-hour. 
The main takeaway from the guidelines is this: Some exercise is better than none at all. Just do something. It counts!
Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at HHS, said:
“Sit less, move more. Whatever you do, it really all counts.”