New guidelines published in September 2019 emphasise the comprehensive benefits of any physical activity for anyone, say the UK’s Chief Medical Officers.1
The updated guidelines based on new evidence apply across four age groups and for the first time additional guidance is provided for being active during pregnancy and after birth, and for disabled adults.2
The evidence base is clear; any physical activity is good, but more is better. The multitude of benefits can start to occur at even the lowest levels of activity, and therefore everybody should be encouraged to do what they can.
All children aged under five should be active every day and participate in a range of activities including outdoor play. Once children are mobile, the evidence supports a guideline level of at least 180 minutes a day for optimal health benefits.
Children and young people
The evidence supports an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous activity across the week. A variety of types and intensities of activity are recommended including those which develop movement skills, muscular fitness, and muscle and bone strength.
The evidence continues to support being physically active every day, working to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, per week.
There is new evidence for benefits of physical activity below this recommended level (lower amounts, less often and less intense), so that any level of activity is better than none, while still aiming to reach the recommended level.
Emerging evidence supports the health benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) activities, which are, for the first time included in the guidelines. The guidelines underline the importance of including strength-based activities on at least two days of the week.
In 2018, a review of the evidence acknowledged the wealth of health benefits for activity during pregnancy, and after giving birth. Pregnant women are encouraged to achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week, continuing with usual activity if already active or safely increasing activity if currently inactive.
A review of the evidence showed various benefits of regular physical activity for disabled adults, and importantly no evidence was found that participation in appropriate activity increased the risk of injury or harm. Disabled adults are encouraged to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, including strength and balance activities on at least two days per week.
The importance of regular strength, flexibility and balance activity becomes even more important with age. Guidelines for older adults encourage daily activity and at least 150 weekly minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 weekly minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination. Activities to improve strength, balance and flexibility are recommended on at least two days of the week.
- British Medical Journal. UK CMOs: When it comes to physical activity some is good, but more is better. 2019.
- GOV.UK. Physical Activity Guidelines. 2019.