11 Jul 2011 09:35 AM
UK-wide advice on activity and fitness levels

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 11 July 2011

New advice as to how people of all ages can maintain fitness levels and stay or get healthy, was launched today as part of the first UK-wide physical activity guidelines by the four nations’ Chief Medical Officers.

A key new element is a more flexible approach for adults to get their 150 minutes of activity a week.

The guidelines build on previous advice but reflect the growing body of knowledge about physical activity levels and links to reducing the risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Key new elements are:

recommendations for weekly physical activity being more flexible for busy lives. Adults can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of ten minutes or more and should aim to be active every day. 30 minutes five times a week is just one way this can be achieved;

more emphasis on vigorous activity and muscle strengthening through, for example heavy gardening, group sports such as volleyball and basketball or swimming. There is good evidence this stimulates bone formation and maintains muscle mass;

advice tailored to every age group including – for the first time – guidance for parents for under-fives; and

reducing and minimising periods of sedentary behaviour.

The guidance has a renewed focus on being active everyday and spells out the recommended minimum levels of activity for each age group:

Under-fives

180 minutes – three hours – each day, once a child is able to walk.

Children and young people (5-18 year olds)

60 minutes and up to several hours every day of moderate to vigourous intensity physical activity. Three days a week should include vigourous intensity activities that strengthen muscle and bone.

Adults (19-64 years old) and older people (65+)

150mins – two and half hours – each week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (and adults should aim to do some physical activity every day). Muscle strengthening activity should also be included twice a week.

England ’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said:

“Being active has enormous health and well being benefits. It protects against many of the biggest causes of early death like heart disease, and stroke, and can promote good mental health.

“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 per cent 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:

"In terms of health benefits, we know that the duration, intensity and type of physical activity for a young person is very different to that required for an older adult. 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. For providers such as Central YMCA, this advice will enable us to develop and target physical activity interventions more effectively."

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.

“Our childhood and teenage years are where we develop habits and lifestyles that generally continue throughout our adult life. So it’s vital that parents introduce children to fun and physically active pastimes to help prevent them becoming obese children, who are likely to become obese adults at risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

Sport England Chief Executive Jennie Price said:

"Sport is a fun, inclusive and cost-effective way of improving the health of the nation. We therefore welcome the Chief Medical Officers' new guidelines, as well as the recognition of the added benefits of vigorous intensity activity.

"With the added flexibility these guidelines provide, and the growing number of social and informal sporting activities on offer, this is an exciting opportunity for us and our partners to encourage more people to improve their health through playing and enjoying sport."

Notes to Editors

1. For further information contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221

2. A copy of the report can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_127931

Contacts:

Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221
NDS.DH@coi.gsi.gov.uk