We all know exercise can help us to live a longer and more fulfilling life. With benefits such as weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, mood stability and bone health, engaging in exercise is something that is recommended for the general population. But how much exercise should we be doing, and what type?

How much?

The World Health Organisation has set out guidelines for the amount of exercise adults aged 18-64 years old should be doing. Physical activity can include leisure time physical activity (for example: walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming), transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities.

For 18-64 year olds, the following is recommended:

  1. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

  2. Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration

  3. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

  4. Muscle strengthening should be done involving major muscle groups on at least 2 days per week

The recommendations are relevant to all health adults age 18-64 years old unless a specific medical condition is present, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity or income level.

The goals are set to accumulate throughout the week in shorter bouts (i.e. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, 5 times a week).

(World Health Organisation 2017)

What are the benefits of exercise?

It has been well studied that when compared to less active men and women, physically active individuals:

  • Have lower rates of all cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and depression

  • Are likely to have less risk of vertebral (spine) or hip fractures

  • Exhibit a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and

  • Are more likely to achieve weight maintenance and have a healthier body mass and composition

Great! But how do I get started?

If you are already exercising to the guidelines – great work, keep it up!

If you are looking at getting into exercise, or increasing your current exercise threshold, ensuring you have no underlying health conditions that can limit your activity is a must. See your GP for a check up, or discuss with your regular GP if you know of an underlying medical condition.

Pregnant, post partum women and persons with cardiac events in the past may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before attempting the level of exercise set out in the WHO guidelines (World Health Organisation 2017).

What about people outside the 18-64 year old group?

Currently, there are no guidelines for children less than 5 years old.

For children 5-17 years old, the WHO recommend the following goals: incorporating physical activity such as play, games, sports, transportation, chores, recreation, physical education or planned exercise in the context of family, school and community activities. The recommendations are children and youth aged 5-17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate – to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, with amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes providing additional health benefits. Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic (vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week). The recommendations apply to all healthy children unless specific medical conditions indicate to the contrary. For children who are doing no exercise currently, starting out by doing levels lower than the recommended levels and gradually increasing this over time is better than doing nothing at all.

For adults aged over 65 years, regular physical activity has the added benefit of reducing the risk of falls and cognitive decline. For further recommendations, please see your GP to discuss the level of activity appropriate to your age and health. The general WHO guidelines can be seen at this link: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical-activity-recommendations-65years.pdf?ua=1

Disclaimer: The links provided are for information proposes only. We take no responsibility for the content of these websites.


  • World Health Organisation 2017, Physical Activity and Adults: Recommended levels of physical activity for adults aged 18-64 years, World Health Organisation, retrieved online 9/4/17, http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/

  • World Health Organisation 2017, Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health: 5-17years old, World Health Organisation, retrieved online 9/4/17,

  • http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/physical-activity-recommendations-5-17years.pdf?ua=1

  • World Health Organisation 2017, Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health: 65 years and above, World Health Organisation, retrieved online 9/4/17, http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical-activity-recommendations-65years.pdf?ua=1

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