What is physical activity?

WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure...
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WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, traveling, and engaging in recreational pursuits. 

The term “physical activity” should not be confused with “exercise”, which is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. Beyond exercise, any other physical activity that is done during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work, has a health benefit. Further, both moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity improves health.

How much physical activity is recommended? 

WHO recommends: Children and adolescents aged 5-17years 

  • Should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. 
  • Physical activity of amounts greater than 60 minutes daily will provide additional health benefits. 
  • Should include activities that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.
Adults aged 18–64 year
  • Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physi- cal activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

 

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Adults aged 65 years and above 

  • Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. 
  • For additional health benefits, they should increase moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent. 
  • Those with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls, 3 or more days per week. 
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups, 2 or more days a week. 

The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people. In order to be beneficial for cardiorespiratory health, all activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration. 

Benefits of physical activity and risk of insufficient physical activity Regular physical activity of moderate intensity – such as walking, cycling, or doing sports – has significant benefits for health. At all ages, the benefits of being physically active outweigh potential harm, for example through accidents. Some physical activity is better than doing none. By becoming more active throughout the day in relatively simple ways, people can quite easily achieve the recommended activity levels.

Regular and adequate levels of physical activity: 

  • improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness; 
  • improve bone and functional health; 
  • reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer), and depression; 
  • reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures; and 
  • are fundamental to energy balance and weight control. 

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