It's enough to make one pine for the days when government alarms were limited to polychromatic terror warnings. In its latest dietary and exercise guidelines, the Agriculture Department last week urged adults seeking to "manage body weight and prevent unhealthy weight gain" to get about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week. To keep weight off, get 90 minutes. Already at a healthy weight? At least 30 minutes for you.
The fitnessocrats we spoke to said they've been urging this much activity for years, and hope the feds' added voice will get the message across. And they say it's achievable, especially if you break the exercise into chunks.
The Moving Crew explores some facet of fitness and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound. Join them, every other Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
"The analogy I use is, if you put one dollar in the piggy bank or four quarters, it's the same amount," said Barry Franklin, a cardiac rehabilitation and exercise specialist and spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine.
And you don't need to sign up for a pre-dawn boot camp or even schlep into the gym (although either of those would work just fine).
"Most people have at least 30 to 45 minutes of free time around noon," Franklin said. "If they walk for 20 or 30 of those minutes, that's half of their daily exercise." A postprandial evening walk would do the trick, too, though that may cut into valuable TV time (or, to be fair, time for kids, homework, second jobs, volunteering, night school, hobbies, socializing, etc.).
Franklin also encourages people to wear a pedometer. Most adults take 2,000 to 3,000 steps per day; many experts recommend 10,000. Accomplish that, and you've probably hit the minimum activity level right there.
The government noted that devoting two workouts per week to strength training is key to good health. Aside from the clanky gear at the gym, at home you can use dumbbells, resistance bands or body weight exercises like push-ups, calf raises, etc.
Carla Sottovia, assistant fitness director at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, advises those seeking weight loss to use a different measure: Burn about 300 calories per day via exercise.
"You need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat," Sottovia explained. "To lose weight and stay healthy, people should shoot for a 500 calorie-per-day deficit. You can get about half of that from diet and the rest from exercise."
She called the half-hour per-day exercise recommendation a "minimal" amount that would, at most, "help you break even. You need to be close to an hour if you want to emphasize weight loss."
So how will you work 30 to 90 minutes of activity into your day? We want your success stories, smart ideas, sneaky schemes, creative math, angry denunciations of the bureaucrats who visited this upon us, etc. Send e-mails to email@example.com; we'll discuss them in a future column. Meanwhile, watch for next week's special fitness issue -- and join our Moving Crew online chat at washingtonpost.com on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 11 a.m.
-- John Briley