1. Skip to content

New Physical Activity Guidelines Announced

Posted: Mon, 09 Sep 2019 15:57

New Physical Activity Guidelines Announced

"Some is Good, More is Better"

That is the advice from the UK's Chief Medical Office (CMO), who have just issued new guidelines around how much physical activity people should be doing to achieve health benefits.

The new guidelines replace the existing 2011 physical activity guidelines, and although these are broadly consistent with the previous ones, they also for the first time present additional guidance for being active during pregnancy and after giving birth, and for disabled adults.

The new guidelines continue to emphasise the importance of regular activity for people of all ages, but allow for more flexibility in achieving the recommended levels of physical activity for each age group.

New Emphasis on Strength and Balance Activities

The new guidelines also underline the importance of regular strength and balance activities for all age groups, acknowledging the important role these activities have in strengthening and helping to build healthy bones in childhood, maintaining strength and delaying the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density which occurs from around age 50, and supporting physical function in older adults.

In issuing the new guidance, the CMO also recognised that the evidence to support the health benefits of regular physical activity for all groups has strengthened since 2011, including:

  • In children and young people, regular physical activity is associated with improved learning and attainment, better mental health and cardiovascular fitness, and also contributing to a healthy weight.
  • In adults, there is strong evidence to demonstrate the protective effect on physical activity on a range of many chronic conditions including coronary heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, mental health problems, and social isolation.
  • Regular physical activity is also now recognised as a means to support cost savings for the health and care system as well as having wider social benefits for individuals and communities. These include increased productivity in the workplace, and active travel can reduce congestion and improve air pollution.

How much physical activity should we be doing?

The new guidance includes targeted recommendations for all age groups: Under 5s, Children and Young People, Adults, and Older Adults, summarised below. For full details and to see infographics, download the full guidelines here.

Infants (less than 1 year):
Infants should be physically active several times every day in a variety of ways, including interactive floor-based activity, e.g. crawling.

Toddlers (1-2 years):
Toddlers should spend at least 180 minutes per day in a variety of physical activities at any intensity, including active and outdoor play, spread throughout the day.

Pre-schoolers (3-4 years):
Pre-schoolers should spend at least 180 minutes per day in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play.

Children and Young People
Children and young people should engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) for an average of 60 minutes per day across the week. This can include all forms of activity such as physical education, active travel, after-school activities, play and sports.

Physical activity guidelines for Adults

  • For good physical and mental health, adults should aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still.
  • Adults should also do activities to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. These could include heavy gardening, carrying heavy shopping, or resistance exercise. Muscle strengthening activities should be done twice a week, but any strengthening activity is better than none.
  • Each week, adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling); or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (such as running)
  • Adults should aim to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary, and when physically possible should break up long periods of inactivity with at least light physical activity.

Older Adults (65 years and over)

  • Older adults should participate in daily physical activity to gain health benefits, including maintenance of good physical and mental health, wellbeing, and social functioning. Some physical activity is better than none: even light activity brings some health benefits compared to being sedentary, while more daily physical activity provides greater health and social benefits.
  • Older adults should break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light activity when physically possible, or at least with standing, as this has distinct health benefits for older people.
  • Older adults should maintain or improve their physical function by undertaking activities aimed at improving muscle strength, balance and flexibility on at least two days a week. These could be combined with sessions involving moderate aerobic activity or could be additional sessions aimed specifically at these components of fitness.
  • Each week older adults should aim to accumulate 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity aerobic activity, building up gradually from current levels. Weight-bearing activities which create an impact through the body help to maintain bone health. Those who are already regularly active can achieve these benefits through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity, to achieve greater benefits.

The key takeaway is that even small changes can make a big difference over time. As they say in the guidelines some is good, more is better.

Tags: Health, Physical Activity