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New drive to boost UK physical activity

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 11 July 2011

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Minimum levels of physical activity for adults and children have been issued today to try and improve the general population’s overall health.

The government has launched a drive to boost physical activity in the form of what are the first ever UK-wide physical activity guidelines published jointly by the four nations’ chief medical officers (CMOs).

Under the guidelines, children aged under five who are walking should be active for at least three hours every day, while adults (19-64 year olds) and older people aged 65 and above are recommended to take part in moderate to intense physical activity for two and a half hours a week.

The UK Physical Activity Guidelines are intended to give advice on how people of all ages can maintain fitness levels and stay or get healthy.

They build on previous advice, but have been adapted to reflect the growing body of knowledge about physical activity levels and links to reducing the risk of serious diseases.

The CMOs said adults should aim to do some physical activity every day and it can be flexible for busy lives so they can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of 10 minutes or more. Thirty minutes five times a week is one way to achieve this. Muscle strengthening activity should also be included twice a week.

There is also more emphasis on vigorous activity and muscle strengthening through activities such as heavy gardening, group sports such as volleyball and basketball, and swimming.

The CMOs want to reduce and minimise periods of sedentary behaviour.

For children and young people (5-18 year olds),
the guidelines recommend 60 minutes and up to several hours every day of moderate to vigourous intensity physical activity.

England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies said: “Being active has enormous health and well being benefits.

“The latest figures show that almost a quarter of adults are obese and on current trends by 2050 it means 9 in 10 adults will be overweight or obese. We know that more than 60% of adults are not active enough which is why today the UK chief medical officers are launching the first UK-wide guidelines that draw on the latest science to inform weekly levels of physical activity - whatever your age.

“But it’s not just about health. Cycling and walking more can save on transport costs, reduce congestion and pollution.”

Robin Gargrave, director of innovation and development at Central YMCA said: “Most people know they can improve their health by being more active, but face barriers, which prevent them from doing so.

“This advice addresses these barriers by recognising the limitations of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to physical activity - it speaks directly to people at different stages of their lives and is flexible in its approach.”

Maura Gillespie, head of policy and advocacy at the British Heart Foundation said:
“Being active, whatever your age is crucial for looking after your heart. But we’re particularly pleased that the guidelines focus on under-fives and recognise the benefits of more vigorous activity for older children and adults.”

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