Updated Physical Activity Guidelines

Getting regular exercise and more movement each day is a fundamental habit of health and longevity.  Recently the World Health Organization updated its physical activity guidelines for the first time in a decade and it includes smaller, less intense bouts of exercise throughout the day. 

While past exercise recommendations included at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, the updated guidelines advise that adults participate in both 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity and 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity each week.  Although the overall goals for physical activity have increased, the definition of what constitutes a “workout” has expanded to include small bite-sized sessions of movement.  

Whether it’s a 5-minute seated stretching or gentle chair yoga session or a quick walk around the block, every movement counts towards the weekly goal.  The WHO also recommends that adults over the age of 65 include balance exercises like yoga or Tai Chi to help reduce their risk for falls.  Older adults can start by alternating balancing on one foot and then the other while washing the dishes or brushing their teeth. 

Functional strength training is also emphasized in the new WHO guidelines for older adults.  Strengthening muscles used in everyday activities not only helps seniors stay strong and independent, but weight-bearing exercises also help to promote bone density.  Functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity are recommended for older adults on 3 or more days of the week. 

Physical inactivity is a leading risk factor for early death – doing some physical activity each day can improve health outcomes, reduce the risk for falls leading to injury and improve overall well-being by boosting function, mood and helping to maintain healthy body weight.  More movement throughout the day can also improve sleep and cognitive health.

Check out The 9-Minute Strength Workout from the New York Times Well section for strength training exercises that work out the whole body – pay attention to proper form to prevent injury.  Don’t forget to always check with your doctor or a physical therapist about their recommendations for your specific physical activity guidelines before starting any new exercise program.