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Taking enough physical activity is crucial for good health and wellbeing, but most of us aren’t nearly active enough. Physical activity is especially important for our children if they are to grow into healthy adults. Getting active now will help them to develop healthy habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

There are many benefits of physical activity. Adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on five days of the week. This is the minimum recommended level. The activity should be a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities.

Aerobic physical activity

  • Moderate intensity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week
  • Vigorous intensity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week
  • Combination of moderate and vigorous activity. For example, a person can meet the recommendation by walking briskly for 30 minutes twice during the week and then jogging for 20 minutes on two other days.

Muscle-strengthening physical activity

Eight to 10 exercises performed on two or more non-consecutive days each week, using the major muscle groups. To maximize strength development, a resistance (weight) should be used that allows 8–12 repetitions of each exercise, resulting in volitional fatigue. Muscle-strengthening activities include a progressive weight-training programme, weight-bearing callisthenics, stair climbing and similar resistance exercises that use the major muscle groups. The physical activity recommendations for adults are also appropriate for older adults and include both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. However, specific additional activities are recommended as particularly beneficial, in particular those that maximise strength development and promote flexibility and balance.

Children and young people

The main reasons are:

There is a strong justification for encouraging children and young people to be physically active.

  • Physical activity can play an important role in delaying the ageing process and in helping older people to maintain functional capacity and to reduce their risk of health problems.

To promote and maintain good health and physical independence, the following activities should be undertaken on a minimum of two days each week:

  • Healthy growth and development of the musculo-skeletal system, which can reduce the later risk of osteoporosis
  • Energy balance for the maintenance of healthy weight
  • Opportunity for social interaction, achievement and mental wellbeing. Those who have a positive experience of physical activity are more likely to continue into adulthood.
  • All children and young people, including those with disabilities, should take part in at least one hour a day of physical activity, which could include physical education, play, sports, exercise, dance, outdoor activities, active travel, and support to be active in their daily tasks at home, school and in the community.
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