The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued updated Activity guidelines as a key strategy in combatting obesity and chronic disease. These new recommendations reaffirm messages about physical activity being better than none, and recommend decreasing sedentary behaviors for improved health outcomes. They also include specific advice for pregnant and postpartum women as well as those living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
The new guidelines are informed by evidence accumulated since 2010’s set of WHO guidelines were created, with more studies, insights and recommendations having come out since. They focus more on increasing moderate to vigorous exercise each week to combat inactivity than before.
WHO recommends adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity and 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities like ballroom dancing, line dancing, biking with level ground or some hills, gardening, general walking briskly, water aerobics or hiking fast walking jogging and lap swimming each week. Incorporating strength building exercises like weight training or using resistance bands (push-ups/lunges etc) on two days each week should also provide benefits.
Changes from previous guidelines include moving toward an upper limit rather than minimum value on weekly moderate and vigorous activity levels, encouraging people to do more exercise while reaping maximum health benefits from exercise. Most individuals will likely find 300 minutes a week as their ideal range for moderate-intense physical activity – this would serve as their “sweet spot”.
Another change involves the elimination of 10-minute bouts as being sufficient to fulfill activity goals, so that any movement counts towards reaching them! Short bouts throughout the day are just as beneficial.
The guidelines suggest that most people can safely increase their levels and types of activity without consulting with healthcare providers first; provided there are no contraindications to exercise. Furthermore, the new recommendations recommend starting slowly and increasing over time rather than trying to do everything all at once.
The WHO’s new guidelines should provide a solid basis for national strategies designed to reduce inactivity and increase levels of moderate to vigorous exercise in adults, though more research must be conducted to address gaps in knowledge – particularly among low and middle income countries and subpopulations living with chronic conditions or disability – as well as to establish robust global and national systems for monitoring progress towards national activity targets – which will be critical in realizing the full potential of the WHO guidelines in improving global health outcomes.