The importance of daily activity

We all know that exercise is good for us. But in November 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new physical activity guidelines that make that point breathtakingly clear. Their report states that:

  • Up to 5 million deaths a year could be averted if the global population was more active.
  • People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.
  • Sedentary behavior of 7.5 hours or more each day is associated with a higher risk of death.
  • More than 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.

How much is enough?

Here’s a summary of the WHO’s physical activity recommendations:

  • Adults should get at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity activity every week. That’s around 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day, five days a week.
  • Adults should add on muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
  • It’s also important to limit the amount of time you spend sitting down. Replacing sedentary activity with any type of physical activity (even light intensity) provides health benefits. And if you can’t avoid sitting for a good portion of your day, getting more exercise can help make up for your seated hours ― 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity per day can potentially eliminate the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior on health outcomes.
  • Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, incorporate muscle-building exercises, and limit sedentary time.
  • Pregnant and postpartum women should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity every week.

Why physical activity matters

Regular physical activity provides significant benefits for your health, including:

  • Improved muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Improved bone and functional health
  • Reduced risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, several types of cancer, and depression
  • Reduced risk of falls and fractures
  • Healthy body weight

Where do you find the time?

Many of us find it hard to fit in any exercise, let alone meet these recommended minimums. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Try sneaking in smaller chunks of activity throughout the day, then watch the minutes you spend in motion add up! Here are some tips:

  • Choose a parking spot that’s farther away from where you’re going so you can get in extra steps.
  • Ride your bike or walk, instead of driving, for shorter trips.
  • Take brief movement breaks during the day. Do some jumping jacks, lunges, squats, running in place, or other quick exercises when you can spare a few minutes.
  • Plan social activities that involve movement, like walking or cycling with friends, playing tennis or volleyball, having a family soccer or basketball game, going golfing, etc.
  • Use a push lawn mower instead of a ride-on.
  • Plant and tend a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Take a yoga, martial arts, or dance class.
  • Remember that everyday tasks like housecleaning and yard work count, too!

Ready for some deskercise?

For even more ideas to interrupt your sedentary time, check out this interactive game.

Sources:

“Here’s the type and amount of exercise you need, WHO advises,” CNN health (www.cnn.com), November 30, 2020
“Physical activity,” World Health Organization (www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity), November 26, 2020
“WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour,” World Health Organization (www.who.int), November 25, 2020