The recent article "How much should you exercise?" (Park, 2010) highlights a critical issue in long-term health and well being of Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008), adults should exercise a minimum of 2.5 hours per week while adolescents and children should engage in at least one hour of physical activity daily. A 2009 study in the Journal of Physiology says that short high intensity intervals, about 20 minutes worth, are just as effective in fulfilling the physical activity recommendation. Regardless of how you approach it, fulfilling the recommended daily and weekly physical activity prescription is essential in establishing healthy, active habits and reducing the risk of health complications (USDHAHS, 2008).
Determining the appropriate intensity and duration of physical activity is dependent on the age and underlying health circumstances of the individual never the less, everyone should be engaging in moderate to vigorous intensity exercise on a regular basis (Park, 2009; USDHAHS, 2008). For children and adolescents, high intensity interval exercise may be the most effective in achieving recommended physical activity goals. For example, a study by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Buffalo (2009) explored the difference between continuous and interval physical activity bouts in reinforcing adolescent engagement. Using a cycle ergometer and a button pressing activity, Barkely, Epstein and Roemmich (2009) found that the performance of the adolescent subjects indicated that interval exercise protocol was more reinforcing to participation than continuous exercise. Based on previous observations, children typically engage in short interval-like physical activity during free play which indicates that an interval-based physical activity may yield the greatest level of engagement among adolescents (Barkley, Epstein & Roemmich, 2009). This study does not disregard the effectiveness of continuous physical activity but rather highlights the importance of population characteristics when designing the most effective exercise protocol.
Greaney et al. (2009) conducted a study to help indentify the barriers and enabling circumstances of healthy weight management among college-aged individuals. Both male and females students indicated that a lack of exercise, eating unhealthy foods and time constraints barring them from exercising were the greatest barriers to healthy weight management and lifestyle. On the other hand, conscious food intake regulation, being physically active and university promotion of physical activity and healthy food options were the most reported enablers of healthy weight control among college students (Greaney et al., 2009). College-aged individuals are a unique population that requires clear understanding of their intrapersonal and environmental influences in their eating and activity behaviors in order to adjust the recommended physical activity prescription (USHAHS, 2008) to coincide with constraints of college life.
Park's (2010) article, which illustrated various conflicts among physical activity recommendations and the considerable factors of population needs and environmental influence, demonstrates the overlaying message that physical activity should be a priority among all populations regardless of age or physical ability. In a country with 17% of children and adolescents that are obese and 30% of adults falling in the same BMI category (CDC, 2009), exercise protocol should focus on weight management while utilizing different reinforcing strategies and physical activity designs in order to maximize the likelihood of continuous exercise participation and improved lifestyle choices.
Center for Disease Prevention and Control. (2009). Overweight and obesity. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov
Park, M. (2009). How much should you exercise? Retrieved from www.cnn.com
Barkely, J., Epstein, l. & Roemmich, J. (2009). Reinforcing value of interval and continuous physical activity in children. Physiology and Behavior (98), 31-36.
Greaney, M., Less, F., White, A., Dayton, S., Riebe, D., Blissmer, B., Shoff, S., Walsh, J., Greene, G. (2009). College students' barriers and enablers for healthful weight management: A qualitative study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (41), 4, 281-286.
United States Department of Health and Human Services (2009). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from www.hhs.gov