The guidelines are also accessible to people with chronic conditions, a disability or are pregnant, who are urged to try and meet the recommendations if they can.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a new set of guidelines for people to get active and stay fit, be there a pandemic or not. It talks about the harmful effects of living a sedentary lifestyle and how every type of movement adds up to physical activity. According to a report by CNN, WHO’s previous recommendation only included adults from ages 18 to 64, and stated they should do either at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or minimum 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. But the new guidelines have something for every age and ability – from five years to 65 years and older, irrespective of gender, cultural background or socioeconomic status, and are relevant for people of all abilities.
It also states that people suffering from chronic medical conditions, disability or is pregnant or has recently delivered a baby should try and meet the recommendations if they are able to.
WHO classifies physical activity as any movement that includes walking, cycling, wheeling, doing sports or a form of active recreation, but is not limited to just these forms. Any kind of activity is better than doing nothing. Even something as simple as taking a break from sitting to do three to four minutes of walking or stretching can help ease the muscles and improve blood circulation and muscle activity.
A shocking fact by the WHO states that there has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing everyone to stay home if not making them wary of the outdoors, the WHO is help people understand that it is still necessary to have some movement for their wellbeing.
“Being physically active is critical for health and well-being – it can help to add years to life and life to years,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement. “Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all move every day – safely and creatively.”
“These new guidelines highlight how important being active is for our hearts, bodies and minds, and how the favourable outcomes benefit everyone, of all ages and abilities”, said Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the Physical Activity Unit that led the development of the new WHO guidelines.
For children and adolescents
According to the WHO guidelines, children from the ages of five to 17 should do moderate to vigorous-intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity for one hour a day throughout the week and vigorous-intensity aerobic activities as well as bone and muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week. They should start will small amounts of physical activities and increase it over time.
Limiting the amount of time spent being sedentary and reducing screen time using phones, laptops, tablets is also a strong recommendation made by the health agency.
Statistics show that four out of five adolescents, do not get enough physical activity. It can lead to health issues like increased adiposity; poorer cardiometabolic health, fitness, behavioural conduct/pro-social behaviour; and reduced sleep duration.
For children who are under one year, should also be active with at least 30 minutes of tummy time and should not be kept in a pram, stroller, high chair, etc for more than one hour.
Children between one to two-four years old should spend at least three hours doing moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity while limiting their screen time. It is also important for them to have “good quality sleep” with naps at regular intervals.
According to WHO stats, one in four adults are not getting enough physical activity. Adults between the age of 18-64 years old should do anywhere between two and a half hours to five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity. Alternatively, they can also do one and a half hour to two and a half hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week.
The same advice applies to adults who are 65 years and older. Adults in both categories should also undertake muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity two times a week. However, for adults older than 65 years, they should also do exercises that improves their balance and prevent falls.
Leading an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle can cause all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer mortality and incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes.
Pregnant and post-partum women
Women who are pregnant or have just delivered a baby it is important to engage in some form of physical activity. It can benefit both the mother and the child and decreased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and diabetes, as well as excessive weight gain, delivery complications and post-partum depression, along with fewer newborn complications, adverse effects on birth weight and decrease the risk of stillbirth.
Women are recommended to do two and a half hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity adding muscle strengthening and gentle stretching exercises. Pelvic floor muscle training can be done on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. The WHO also has guidelines for ensuring that both mother and baby are safe during this period.
People living with chronic illnesses
According to the new WHO guidelines, exercising and being active can be very beneficial for adults living with chronic illnesses. The physical activities for adults are similar to those adults who do not experience chronic illness. They should do anywhere between two and a half hours to five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity. Alternatively, they can also do one and a half hour to two and a half hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week.
- cancer survivors – physical activity improves all-cause mortality, cancer-specific mortality, and risk of cancer recurrence or second primary cancer;
- people living with hypertension – physical activity improves cardiovascular disease mortality, disease progression, physical function, health-related quality of life;
- people living with type-2 diabetes – physical activity reduces rates of mortality from cardiovascular disease and indicators disease progression;
- people living with HIV – physical activity can improve physical fitness and mental health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression), and does not adversely affect disease progression (CD4 count and viral load) or body composition.
People living with disabilities
Children living with disabilities also have to spend the same amount of time exercising like those who are not disabled. However, they do have more benefits like improved cognition in individuals with disorders that impair cognitive function and improvements in physical function in children with intellectual disability. For adults living with disabilities, they benefit in the following ways.
- with multiple sclerosis – improved physical function, and physical, mental, and social domains of health-related quality of life;
- with spinal cord injury – improved walking function, muscular strength, and upper extremity function; and enhanced health-related quality of life;
- with disorders that impair cognitive function – improved physical function and cognition (in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and those with a history of stroke); beneficial effects on cognition; and may improve quality of life (in adults with schizophrenia); and may improve physical function (in adults with intellectual disability); and improves the quality of life (in adults with major clinical depression).