Activity-monitoring

Physical Activity

WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits. 

What is physical activity?

The term "physical activity" should not be confused with "exercise", which is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. Both, moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity brings health benefits¹.

Benefits of physical activity

Regular physical activity of moderate intensity – such as walking, cycling, or doing sports – has significant benefits for health¹. Some physical activity is better than doing none.

Regular and adequate levels of physical activity:

  • improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness;
  • improve bone and functional health;
  • reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer and depression;
  • reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures; and
  • are fundamental to energy balance and weight control. (1)

Risks of physical inactivity

Globally 23% of the adults is not active enough.  Insufficient physical activity is 1 of the 10 leading risk factors for death worldwide. Next to that insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. Physical activity has significant health benefits and contributes to prevent NCDs (1)

How much of physical activity is recommended?

The WHO gives following recommendation¹:

Adults aged 18–64 years
Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent.
Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Adults aged 65 years and above

Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
For additional health benefits, they should increase moderate intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or equivalent.
Those with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls, 3 or more days per week.
Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups, 2 or more days a week.
The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people. In order to be beneficial for cardiorespiratory health, all activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.

References:

1. WHO, Physical Activity Fact sheet N°385, January 2015