The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) was the first published set of national standards for physical activity. This offered a firm basis for the Healthy People 2020, a plan which purports the numerous health benefits of a regular physical activity routine for young and old Americans.

The plan consists of 15 major objectives which are further broken down into sub-sections. While PA-1 and PA-2 focus on adults, PA-3 to PA-8 is centered on kids and teenagers. Additionally, the focus of PA-9 to PA-15 is on policies and environmental factors that can help in boosting the general physical activity of the populace.

The expected physical activity involves activities of both vigorous and moderate intensities, as well as activities aimed at strengthening the muscles.

Over 80% of adults and adolescents don’t meet up with the stipulated standards for both muscle-training and aerobic physical activities. And this is what Healthy People’s physical goals 2020 seeks to change. It aims at taking a multidisciplinary approach to improving health through increased physical activity in the US.

The physical activity goals for Healthy People 2020 lay emphasis on how people’s level of activity is enhanced by:

  • Helpful environmental structures like bike lanes, sidewalks, parks, and trails.
  • Legislation aimed at improving access to services that sustain physical activity.

The Healthy People 2020 plan also incorporates some new fitness objectives to target young kids. These include:

  • The promotion of physical activities in childcare environments
  •  Intervening behaviorally so that the time kids spend in front of computer and TV screens can be reduced
  • Ensuring that physical education and recess are upheld in all the private and public elementary schools in the country.

The Importance of Physical Activity

The role that being regularly physically active can play in improving the health and lifestyles of people of all ages cannot be overemphasized. 

Adults and Seniors

For adults and the elderly, being physically active can reduce the risk of several health issues including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Falling
  • Colon and breast cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Untimely death

Kids and Teens

Physical activity for kids and teenagers has the effect of improving:

  • Bone health
  • Cognitive skills
  • Muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Concentration levels

It also lowers:

  • unhealthy body fat
  • depression symptoms

For those who are normally inactive, even a little boost in physical activity can make a world of difference in terms of health benefits.

Factors Affecting the Level of Physical Activity

It has been discovered that social, personal, environmental and economic factors affect the level of physical activity in both the young and the old. An understanding of both the hindrances and the catalysts to improved physical activity is necessary for ensuring that all interventions and actions taken to raise physical activity levels are effective.

Some of the positive factors that affect physical activity in adults are:

  • sound income
  • higher educational levels
  • enjoyable exercise routine
  • expectation of profitability
  • self-belief and motivation
  • good record of being active as an adult
  • social support from family and friends
  • enjoyment of the scenery
  • neighborhood safety
  • access to satisfactory facilities

The negative factors connected to physical activity in adults are:

  • aging
  • lower-income
  • the dread of the effort it takes to exercise
  • lack of motivation
  • residing in a rural area
  • disability
  • obesity
  • poor health
  • less available time

There may be more negative factors as far as the elderly are concerned which may include lacking social support and transportation, cost of fitness programs, and fear of getting injured.

For kids aged between 4 and 12 years, some of the positive factors affecting physical activity include:

  • gender (males)
  • support from parents
  • self-belief and motivation

For teens aged 13 to 18, the positive factors may be:

  • gender (males)
  • personal ambition
  • self-belief and motivation
  • social support from family and friends
  • school sports and physical education
  • well-educated parents

Meanwhile, the positive environmental factors that may affect physical activity in kids and teenagers include:

  • available sidewalks
  • having a destination to walk to
  • low traffic
  • accessible public transport
  • presence of recreational equipment and/or a school or neighborhood play area.

Disabled people are more unlikely to be physically inactive due to their physical, psychological or emotional limitations. Other hindrances may be unavailability of facilities and trained staff to work with disabled people.

What’s New with the Healthy People 2020 Goals?

Both aerobics and muscle-training are emphasized for the Healthy People 2020, with sub-objectives for young ones and adults to combine both.

School-based physical activity now reflects in the modifications for physical education and elementary school recess. This is to ensure physical activity in childcare environments. 

The reduction of kids’ TV viewing and computer use, and encouragement of outdoor activity is also a major physical activity goal for the year 2020.

Yet another new objective is aimed at monitoring doctors’ counsels about exercise. Due to the recent encouragement by the American College of Sports of doctors’ counseling on physical activity 

The Bottom Line

Healthy People’s physical goals 2020 is aimed at merging awareness and healthcare with environmental factors such as urban planning, transportation, recreation, environmental health, and other factors.

Yet, despite all of these measures being put in place, the onus rests upon each and every individual to make an intentional and calculated effort to become serious with physical fitness. Creating short- and long-term goals will go a long way to help in this process.

For instance, you can decide to be physically active so as to avoid diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases that you become more prone to as you get older. That’s a long-term goal. Desiring to be able to run around and play with your grandchildren is another long-term goal. But on the path to achieving those, short-term goals make up the vehicle to take you to your desired destination.

The choices that you make every day are what culminate to give you the life you desire. So embrace an active lifestyle – walk, take the stairs, mow the lawn. Each physical activity, however insignificant as it may seem, makes a great difference in the long-run.