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Adult activity levels still well below guideline

Only two-thirds of men and half of women take enough exercise

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Barely two-thirds of men and half of women achieve the recommended weekly level of moderate or vigorous physical activity, the latest official statistics reveal.

The Health Survey for England – 2012 investigated activity levels among men and women aged 19 and over in England. The results show that, in 2012, only 61% of adults (66% of men and 56% of women) met the current guidelines for moderate/vigorous physical activity.

These guidelines, which were updated in 2011, recommend that adults take a total of at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity (MPA) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (VPA) per week – or an equivalent combination of these (in bouts of at least 10 minutes). This should, preferably, be spread over the week.

Whereas the old guidelines had been less flexible, and had concentrated more on vigorous activity, which was thought to have put off many people from exercising at all, the current recommendations focus on encouraging moderate activity, for example brisk walking, athletics, cricket, or netball; or activities such as cycling, dancing or swimming – regardless of whether they make the individual breathless or sweaty. It was hoped that this would encourage people to move from none to moderate physical activity.

However, the overall figures of people taking recommended exercise levels have barely increased since the 2008 survey, when 65% of men and 54% of women achieved equivalent targets.

Authors of the report note: “Compliance is higher for the new guideline, reflecting its more flexible definition. The new guidelines introduce greater flexibility in the ways that an individual can accumulate physical activity across the week, recognise activity that would have been discounted under the previous guidelines, and reflect the extra value of vigorous intensity activity.”

They point out that because their data were collected throughout the whole of 2012, they would not yet be expected to show an effect of the ‘Olympic legacy’.

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