Fitness and Exercise

Updated exercise recommendations issued by World Health Organization

International exercise guidelines have been updated for the first time in ten years in a bid to get people more active.

Previously the World Health Organization (WHO) called for adults aged 18 to 64 do either at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or a minimum 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week

Now the WHO says adults should complete 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two every week.

There is also an update to guidance for children and adolescents, with a new aim for an average of 60 minutes each day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity every week. A change from the minimum 60 minutes daily exercise recommended in 2010.

Before the WHO physical activity guidance was aimed at healthy adults, while the new updated guidelines are also for those living with chronic conditions or a disability. The WHO says to enhance functional ability and prevent falls older adults, as well as people with chronic conditions and living with disability, should try to perform physical activities that focus on functional balance and strength training three or more days a week at moderate or greater intensity.

Also, the 2020 update includes a recommendation which recognises the link associations between sedentary behaviour and health risks. Research published alongside the guidance reviewed nine studies and concluded that approximately 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day can offset the link between sedentary time and mortality.

It also includes advice for pregnant and postpartum women, suggesting that they should exercise regularly, preferably at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every seven days.

The report containing the updated guidance says four to five million deaths per year could be prevented across the world if people were more physically active. It also says that estimates suggest 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.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Being physically active is critical for health and well-being — it can help add years to life and life to years. Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all move every day — safely and creatively.”

The updated guidance was published via the online version of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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