The impact of inactivity on health

Some people may be surprised by the Government’s recommendations for exercise for adults and Under 5’s. Most people know that they should be more active and take regular exercise but usually lack the knowledge or self-discipline to do it.

Being inactive or not doing sufficient physical activity can contribute to a wide range of health, emotional and social issues. The WHO guidelines for Under 5’s physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 are covered in detail within Module 5. Here we present the guidelines for those over 5, who can help act as role models for younger children in the family – this may also come up in conversation with the wider family when discussing diet and physical activity.

For further information see: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en/index.html or contact WHO on dietandhealth@who.int

5–17 years old
For children and young people of this age group, physical activity includes play, games, sports, transportation, recreation, physical education or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities. To improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, the following are recommended:

  • Children and young people aged 5–17 years old should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily
  • Physical activity of amounts greater than 60 minutes daily will provide additional health benefits
  • Most of daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week

18–64 years old
For adults of this age group, physical activity includes recreational or leisure-time physical activity, transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities. To improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health and reduce the risk of NCDs and depression the following are recommended:

  • Adults aged 18–64 years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
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