In late 2020, the World Health Organisation released a set of guidelines on physical activity for children, adolescentes, adults and older adults.
As one of the first international physical activity guides to apply based on subpopulations, these guidelines aim to provide evidence-based health recommendations to the public, to mitigate health risks associated with increased sedentary behaviour.
Read on to learn more about the WHO’s physical activity guidelines and what the international organisation’s health recommendations are for your specific demographic.
5-17 Years: Children and Adolescents
According to WHO, physical activity in children and adolescents is beneficial for improving cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, cardiometabolic health and mental health. It is also necessary to limit the amount of time children and adolescents spend sedentary (especially in front of a screen).
The WHO therefore recommends children and adolescents to do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. Physical activity should be mostly aerobic and should be performed across the week. In addition, bone and muscle strengthening exercises should also be incorporated in children and adolescents’ physical activity at least three days a week.
The WHO’s physical activity guidelines acknowledge that it is important for all children and adolescents to be provided with safe and equitable opportunities for physical activity. Physical activity should be offered in variety, enjoyable in nature and appropriate to the age and abilities of children and adolescents.
18 to 64 Years: Adults
In adults, physical activity helps to prolong lifespan, reduce the risk of diseases, as well as improve mental and cognitive health.
As a result, the WHO recommends all adults to undertake regular physical activity. Specifically, adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity throughout a week. Physical activity should be aerobic in nature.
Additionally, muscle strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups should also be performed at least two days a week. Time spent sedentary should also be replaced with light intensity physical activity.
For best practice and results, adults should start their physical activity routines with small amounts of activity, before gradually increasing their frequency, intensity and duration over time.
65 Years and Over: Older Adults
According to WHO, physical activity helps older adults reduce the severity of fall-related injuries, as well as slows down the decline in bone health and functional ability. Such positive outcomes are in addition to the benefits physical activity provides during adulthood.
It is recommended that older adults perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week. Moderate to intense muscle strengthening activities are also encouraged, as well as multicomponent physical activity emphasising functional balance.
Muscle strengthening exercises should be performed at least two days per week, while multicomponent physical activities should be performed at least three days per week.
Incorporating Physical Activity Into Your Daily Life
Incorporating the WHO’s physical activity guidelines into your own daily life may be difficult without professional assistance. The WHO’s recommendations are widely accepted among persons working in health services and allied professionals, and inform the content of their advice on physical activity (especially when national guidance is unavailable).
As such, working with health and exercise professionals such as manual therapists, exercise therapists and chiropractors may be beneficial to incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle in the long term.