RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The federal government has just released updated physical activity recommendations. And it's not a big surprise part of the advice is for all of us to just move more. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports it's the first time the guidelines have changed in 10 years.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: In 1960, about half of all workers in the U.S. had jobs that required moderately intense physical activity. There were lots of factory workers, farmers. And more people spent more energy just going about their daily lives.
TIM CHURCH: This whole idea of sitting for a living - it's a very recent phenomenon in the history of mankind.
AUBREY: That's physician and researcher Tim Church of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. He has shown that compared to the 1960s, workers in the U.S. burn about 140 fewer calories per day. Combine this with eating more, and Church says society is paying a steep price.
CHURCH: The obesity epidemic, which has led to the diabetes epidemic.
AUBREY: The good news is we can offset the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. And one way to get motivated is to understand what happens within minutes of setting out on a walk or a bike ride.
CHURCH: Once you get the blood rushing through the vessels, you already start having physiological benefits.
AUBREY: People who maintain a regular exercise habit, about 20 to 30 minutes a day on average, reduce the long-term risks of lots of diseases from cancers and heart attacks to dementia. Exercise can also elevate your mood. Here's researcher Kathleen Janz of the University of Iowa.
KATHLEEN JANZ: Every time you're active, you think better, you sleep better and you feel better.
AUBREY: Which can translate into a better quality of life and more productivity. And for kids, it can mean better grades. Chuck Hillman of Northeastern University has studied the effects of a single workout on academic performance.
CHUCK HILLMAN: Following a single bout of exercise, we find benefits to reading comprehension and arithmetic. And what's interesting is in some of our studies, we've actually shown that the benefits to academic achievement are a full grade-level increase.
AUBREY: These immediate benefits can fade pretty quickly, so the best prescription for exercise is a daily dose. Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.