How much and what type of physical exercise is needed at each age, according to the WHO

Regular physical activity has multiple proven benefits: it is key to preventing and helping control heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, cognitive decline, improving memory and stimulating brain health. Despite this, most people globally do not exercise enough, a deficit that worsened in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned during the launch of new recommendations related to the movement.

Some data that help to measure the magnitude of the problem: worldwide, 1 in 4 adults and 4 in 5 adolescents do not reach the recommended levels of physical activity and sedentary people have a 20% to 30% higher risk of death compared to those who meet the recommended exercise “quota”, Globally, this is estimated to cost $ 54 billion in direct health care and another 14,000 million in lost productivity.

According to the WHO, they could be avoided up to 5 million deaths per year if the world population moved more. “At a time when many people are homebound due to Covid-19, the new WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior emphasize that everyone, of all ages and abilities, can be physically active and that every type movement counts, “said the WHO through a statement.

The new guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults, including people living with chronic conditions or disabilities, and an average of 60 minutes per day for children and teenagers.

4 out of 5 adolescents do not comply with the recommended physical activity. Photo Archive.

The document, which includes specific recommendations for pregnant or postpartum women, as well as for people with chronic diseases and for those living with disabilities, advises substituting sedentary activities for physical exercise as much as possible.

Older adults (65 years and older) are encouraged to add activities that emphasize balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health.

“Physical activity is essential for health and well-being; it can help add years to life and life to years“said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He added:” Every move counts, especially now that we handle the limitations of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all need to move safely and creatively every day. “

All physical activity is beneficial and can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transportation (walking, biking, and cycling), but also through dancing, playing, and everyday household chores, such as gardening and cleaning, require from the WHO.

“Physical activity of any kind and of any duration can improve health and well-being, but more is always better“said Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion.” And if you have to spend a lot of time sitting still, either at work or at school, you should be more physically active to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behavior, “he warned.

“These new guidelines highlight how important being active is to our hearts, bodies, and minds, and how favorable outcomes benefit everyone of all ages and abilities,” said Fiona Bull, head of the Physical Activity Unit who led the development of new WHO guidelines.


Muscle strengthening is key. Photo Shutterstock

How much physical activity is recommended?

The WHO guidelines and recommendations provide details for different age groups and specific population groups on how much physical activity is needed for good health.

For boys and girls under 5 years old

In a 24-hour day, infants (under 1 year old) should:

Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive play on the floor; more is better. For those still not moving, this includes at least 30 minutes in the tummy position, spread out throughout the day while awake.

Should not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (for example, strollers / strollers, high chairs, or strapped to the back of a caregiver).

-Screen time is not recommended.

-When sedentary, a caregiver is encouraged to read and tell stories to you.

Get 14-17 hours (0-3 months of age) or 12-16 hours (4-11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.


Physical activity should be encouraged from the first years of life Photo: Shutterstock.

In a 24-hour day, boys and girls ages 1 to 4 should:

Devote at least 180 minutes to a variety of types of physical activities of any intensity, including moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better. For ages 3 to 4, 60 minutes should be moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity.

Do not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (for example, strollers / strollers, high chairs, or strapped to the back of a caregiver) or sit for extended periods of time.

-At one year, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended.

-From 2 to 4 years old, sedentary screen time should not be more than 1 hour; less is better.

-Good quality sleep should be, including naps, from 11 to 14 hours, from 1 to 2 years; and from 10 to 13, from 3 to 4 years, with regular times to sleep and wake up.


Exercising as a family offers both physical and recreational activity.

Children and adolescents from 5 to 17 years

They must average at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, mainly aerobic, during the week.

They should incorporate vigorous intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscles and bones, at least 3 days a week.

The amount of sedentary time should be limited, particularly time spent on recreational screen.

(The same recommendations apply to children and adolescents living with disabilities)


More exercise, the better, they recommend from the WHO. Photo Shutterstock.

Adults 18 to 64 years

They must perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity during the week.

They must also perform muscle strengthening activities at a moderate or higher intensity that engage all major muscle groups 2 or more days a week as they provide additional health benefits.

Can increase moderate intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes; or perform more than 150 minutes of intense aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity during the week to get Additional benefits to health.

They should limit the amount of sedentary time. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity provides health benefits.


Regular physical exercise is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Photo Shutterstock.

Adults over 65

Same as for adults 18 to 64 years old.

And as part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should engage in a varied multi-component physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and strength training at moderate intensity or higher, 3 or more days a week, to improve functional capacity and prevent falls.

Pregnant and postpartum women

All pregnant and postpartum women without contraindications should:

Do at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity of moderate intensity during the week.

Incorporate a variety of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Limit the amount of sedentary time.

Adults living with disabilities

Same as for adults his age.

It is possible to avoid sedentary behavior and be physically active while sitting or lying down. For example, upper body-directed activities, sports, and inclusive and / or wheelchair-specific activities.

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