WHO Recommendation: Physical activity needed to stay healthy

The WHO’s new guidelines on staying fit and healthy through physical activity are broken down by age group.

By   |  Published: 11th Jan 2021  5:11 pm

According to the WHO, four to five million deaths per year could be averted if the global population was more physically active. Estimates indicate that 27.5% of adults and 81% of adolescents currently do not meet the 2010 WHO recommendations, with almost no improvements seen during the past decade.

The WHO’s new guidelines on staying fit and healthy through physical activity are broken down by age group. From reducing the amount of time we sit still, to including strengthening exercises, here are the main things to know from the WHO for everyone…

Key takeaways

1. Physical activity is good for hearts, bodies and minds. Regular physical activity can prevent and help manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer which cause nearly three quarters of deaths worldwide. Physical activity can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhance thinking, learning, and overall well-being.

2. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, and more is better. For health and well being, WHO recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week for all adults and an average of 60 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per day for children and adolescents.

3. All physical activity counts. Physical activity can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transport (walking, wheeling and cycling), as well as every day and household tasks.

4. Muscle strengthening benefits everyone. Older adults (aged 65 years and older) should add physical activities which emphasize balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health.

5. Too much sedentary behavior (physical inactivity) can be unhealthy. It can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. Limiting sedentary time and being physically active is good for health.

6. Everyone can benefit from increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior, including pregnant and postpartum women and people living with chronic conditions or disability.

Children: aged 5 to 17

According to the latest guidelines, children aged between 5 and 17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per day. This includes aerobic activities as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone.

The benefits include improved physical fitness, cardio metabolic health (blood pressure, glucose and insulin resistance), bone health and better cognitive health, including academic performance and mental health.

The guidelines highlight the need to limit sedentary behavior in children and adolescents, particularly around the amount of recreational screen time. High levels of inactivity are associated with poor fitness, lack of sleep and poorer cardio metabolic health.

Adults: aged 18 to 64

Adults between 18 and 64 years of age should do at least 3-5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity every week.

Muscle-strengthening exercises are also strongly recommended 2 or more days a week, as they can provide additional health benefits.

Recommendations for adults of 65 years old and over are the same as above, highlighting the importance for elderly people to keep fit.


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