Active Voice: Q&A – Updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Released

By Katrina L. Piercy, Ph.D., R.D., ACSM-CEP®

Katrina L. Piercy, Ph.D., R.D., ACSM-CEP®
Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent positions or policies of ACSM.

Katrina L. Piercy, Ph.D., R.D., ACSM-CEP®, is the physical activity and nutrition advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Rockville, Maryland. She also is a lieutenant commander dietitian officer in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Dr. Piercy oversaw the entire process to develop the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition (PAG). She is an ACSM member and previously served on the Clinical Exercise Physiology Association (CEPA) board.

You can watch an interview with ACSM President-elect Bill Kraus at the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines release event.

The SMB editors are grateful to Dr. Piercy for authoring this Q&A commentary and encourage ACSM members and affiliates to use the PAG and accompanying resources to encourage all Americans to be more physically active.


The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) serve as the primary, authoritative voice of the federal government for evidence-based guidance on physical activity, fitness and health for Americans. The second edition was released yesterday and provides evidence-based recommendations for adults and youth, ages 3 through 17 years, to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. The PAG also presents information on how physical activity can help promote health and reduce the risks of chronic disease.

Q: What is new in the updated PAG?
A: The second edition reflects new knowledge about more health benefits from physical activity — and how Americans can more easily achieve these benefits. Many of these health benefits are independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.

New aspects include discussions of:
  • Additional health benefits related to brain health, additional cancer sites and fall-related injuries;
  • Immediate and longer-term benefits for how people feel, function and sleep;
  • Further benefits among older adults and people with additional chronic conditions;
  • Risks of sedentary behavior and their relationship with physical activity;
  • Guidance for preschool children (ages 3 through 5 years);
  • Elimination of the requirement for physical activity of adults to occur in bouts of at least 10 minutes; and
  • Tested strategies that can be used to get the population more active.
Q: Does the PAG tell Americans to be more or less active than what was recommended in the original PAG?
A: New evidence has reinforced, but not changed, the recommended amounts of physical activity for adults and youth in the first edition of the PAG:
  • Adults need at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week plus muscle strengthening activities on two days each week to attain the most health benefits from physical activity;
  • Youth, ages 6 through 17, need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day to attain the most health benefits from physical activity.
Q: What resources are available to translate the messages of these updated PAG for consumers?
A: The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) developed the Move Your Way campaign to help health professionals, national organizations, communities and other physical activity stakeholders communicate with consumers about the recommendations in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The Move Your Way campaign emphasizes personalized, practical strategies that people can use to fit more activity into their busy lives, while clearly communicating the amount and types of physical activity that Americans need to stay healthy. The campaign is informed by audience research and user testing with consumers who are not currently meeting the recommendations in the PAG. Videos, interactive tools, content syndication tools, social media messages, fact sheets and posters are available in English and Spanish at http://health.gov/PAGuidelines/MoveYourWay.

Q: What can ACSM members and certified professionals do to encourage their clients to be more physically active?
A: We need providers and health professionals to assess, counsel and advise patients on physical activity. The ACSM-managed global health initiative, Exercise is Medicine® (EIM), provides a great framework to promote optimal health. In some respects, information in the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans complements those of EIM. For example, the Move Your Way Activity Planner helps adults build a personalized weekly activity plan and offers tips for fitting activity into their daily routines. Providers and health professionals can also reassure their patients about the safety of physical activities and connect patients to programs and events within the community. Additional information about how providers and various community sectors can promote the PAG is discussed in this related article – just published yesterday in JAMA.