According to research, the World Health Organisation and government health departments around the world, there are two types of weekly physical activity required to stay healthy: aerobic and resistance. Aerobic predominantly means working the heart and lungs; resistance means mainly working the muscles and bones.
How much required is all dependent on age:
Babies should be encouraged to be physically active throughout the day except when sleeping.
TODDLERS/CHILDREN (UNDER 5)
Children should be physically active for at least three hours a day and should not be inactive for lengthy periods except when they are sleeping.
CHILDREN/YOUNG PEOPLE (5-17)
At least 60 minutes of physical activity daily which ranges from moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.
A minimum of three days a week should cover vigorous aerobic activity.
Three days a week should incorporate resistance activities that build strong muscles and bones, such as playing tag or jumping.
ADULTS (18-64) AND OLDER ADULTS (65 and over)
A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity) in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
At least two days of strength (resistance) training weekly that maintains healthy muscle mass and preserves bone density and works all the major muscle groups (legs, back, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
Additional health benefits can be gained by increasing moderate aerobic activity to 300 minutes per week, or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week.
Older adults and those at risk of falls should do exercises to improve balance and coordination such as dancing.
Moderate Activity vs Vigorous Activity
Moderate activity raises the heart rate, makes you breathe faster and makes you sweat. It is difficult to sing at this level of intensity.
Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. It is difficult to say a few words without pausing for breath.
Resources: Department of Health, Physical Activity, Health Improvement and Protection. Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. London: Department of Health; (2011). World Health Organization (WHO). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Geneva (2016)