Physical activity guidelines
The UK’s physical activity guidelines are issued by the country’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), providing recommendations for how active adults and children should be to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are separate guidelines for older adults (over 65), disabled adults, children under five, and pregnant women and new mums.
What are the UK’s physical activity guidelines?
The guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week. The strengthening activity should work all major muscles (legs, hips, back, stomach, chest, shoulders and arms).
Children aged 5-18 should do at least one hour of energetic activity every day, such as running, skipping, swimming or cycling. On at least three days a week, they should do some exercise that helps develop their muscles and bones, such as hopscotch, gymnastics, climbing or lifting.
What is moderate-intensity exercise?
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and feel warmer. Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, cycling, water aerobics, dancing and hiking.
What is vigorous exercise?
Vigorous-intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast, meaning you won’t be able to hold a conversation without pausing for breath. Because it’s double the intensity, doing vigorous exercise means you can halve the recommended activity time. Examples of vigorous activity include running, fast swimming or cycling, gymnastics, martial arts, aerobics, skipping rope, walking up stairs, and sport.
Why are the guidelines important?
Physical activity has a host of benefits on physical and mental health. Regular activity has been shown to:
- Reduce the risk of disease (such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer) by up to 50%, and reduce the risk of early death by up to 30%
- Reduce the risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Help manage existing physical and mental health conditions
- Improve mental wellbeing
- Boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy
Although the guidelines lay out how much exercise different groups should be doing, any amount of physical activity is better than none. The benefits of physical activity can be seen with even relatively small increases in exercise – which is why everyone should be encouraged and supported to do as much as they can.