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Are You Physically Active Enough?

 

The World Health Organization recently published its 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior. The new guidelines address children, adolescents, adults, older adults and include new specific recommendations for pregnant and postpartum women and people living with chronic conditions or disability.

 

All adults should undertake 150–300 min of moderate-intensity, or 75–150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, per week.

 

Among children and adolescents, an average of 60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity across the week provides health benefits. The guidelines recommend regular muscle-strengthening activity for all age groups. Additionally, reducing sedentary behaviors is recommended across all age groups and abilities, although evidence was insufficient to quantify a sedentary behavior threshold.

 

Below is a summary of the physical activity and sedentary behavior guidelines. You can review the entire guidelines here: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451

The 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour

 

For all populations, doing some physical activity is better than doing none. If individuals are not currently meeting these recommendations, doing some physical activity will bring benefits to health. Individuals should start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase frequency, intensity and duration over time. The benefits of doing physical activity and limiting sedentary behavior outweigh the potential harms. Any potential harms may be managed by a gradual increase in the amount and intensity of physical activity.

These public health guidelines are for all populations across the age groups from 5 years of age and above, irrespective of gender, cultural background or socioeconomic status and are relevant for people of all abilities. Those with chronic medical conditions and/or disability and pregnant and postpartum women should try to meet these recommendations where possible and as able.

 

Physical activity

Sedentary behaviour

Children and adolescents
(aged 5–17 years), including those living with disability

In children and adolescents, physical activity confers benefits for the following health outcomes: physical fitness (cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness), cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, dyslipidaemia, glucose and insulin resistance), bone health, cognitive outcomes (academic performance, executive function) and mental health (reduced symptoms of depression) and reduced adiposity.
It is recommended that:

  • Children and adolescents should do at least an average of 60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity, across the week;
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone should be incorporated at least 3 days a week.


Strong recommendation

In children and adolescents, higher amounts of sedentary behaviour are associated with detrimental effects on the following health outcomes: fitness and cardiometabolic health, adiposity, behavioural conduct/pro-social behaviour and sleep duration.
It is recommended that:

  • Children and adolescents should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary, particularly the amount of recreational screen time.


Strong recommendation

Adults
(aged 18–64 years) including those with chronic conditions and those living with disability

In adults, physical activity confers benefits for the following health outcomes: all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, incident hypertension, incident type 2 diabetes, incident site-specific cancers,mental health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression), cognitive health and sleep ; measures of adiposity may also improve.
It is recommended that:

  • All adults should undertake regular physical activity;
  • Adults should do at least 150–300 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75–150 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.


Strong recommendation

  • Adults may increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to >300 min, or do >150 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for additional health benefits (when not contraindicated for those with chronic conditions).


Conditional recommendation

In adults, higher amounts of sedentary behaviour are associated with detrimental effects on the following health outcomes: all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer mortality and incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
It is recommended that:

  • Adults should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits;
  • To help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behaviour on health, adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.


Strong recommendation

Older adults
(aged 65 years and older) including those with chronic conditions and those living with disability

In older adults, physical activity also helps prevent falls and falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability.
It is recommended that:
As for adults, plus

  • As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasises functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity on 3 or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.


Strong recommendation

As for adults
Strong recommendation

Pregnant and postpartum women

In women, physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period confers benefits for the following maternal and fetal health outcomes: reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, excessive gestational weight gain, delivery complications and postpartum depression and no increase in risk of stillbirth, newborn complications or adverse effects on birth weight.
It is recommended that all pregnant and postpartum women without contraindication should:

  • undertake regular physical activity throughout pregnancy and post partum;
  • do at least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
  • incorporate a variety of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Adding gentle stretching may also be beneficial.

In addition:

Women who, before pregnancy, habitually engaged in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or who were physically active can continue these activities during pregnancy and the postpartum period.


Strong recommendation

  • Pregnant and postpartum women should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits.

Strong recommendation

 

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