The new WHO 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour provide recommendations on the amount and types of physical activity for various age groups, pregnant and post-partum women, and people living with chronic conditions or disabilities.
The 2020 WHO guidelines are built on a much larger evidence base than the 2010 guidelines, and include some major developments.
First, evidence for additional health benefits, such as improved cognitive health, health-related quality of life, mental health, and sleep, is reported, over and above what was included in the 2010 WHO guidelines—ie, cancer, cardiorespiratory, metabolic, musculoskeletal, and functional health.
This development reflects the maturation of research on physical activity and the growing incorporation of the WHO definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing.
Second, the 2020 WHO guidelines, for the first time, on a global level, provide specific recommendations for pregnant and post-partum women and for people living with chronic conditions or disabilities, showing the increasing specificity and relevance of physical activity guidelines to different populations.
Third, these guidelines have modified recommendations for how aerobic physical activity should be accumulated—eg, the previous requirement for 10-min minimum duration of continuous activity has been dropped and “some physical activity is better
Finally, the 2020 WHO guidelines provide general recommendations to reduce sitting time, which accords with growing interest in the health effects of sedentary behaviour.
The launch of the 2020 WHO guidelines follows other major physical activity guidelines, most recently in the USA and UK.
These guidelines provide similar recommendations for the types, intensity, volume, and duration of physical activity for both general and specific populations. Meanwhile, the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults, launched in
October, 2020, took a different approach by integrating recommendations for sleep, sedentary behaviour, and physical activity of various intensities. Such a 24-h activity spectrum approach, which aims to account for the interconnections across multiple behaviours, has also been applied in guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children younger than 5 years by WHO and countries such as Australia and Canada.
1 Physical activity is good for hearts, bodies and minds.
Regular physical activity can prevent and help manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer which cause nearly three quarters of deaths worldwide. Physical activity can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhance thinking, learning, and overall well-being.
2 Any amount of physical activity is better than none, and more is better. For health and wellbeing, WHO recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (or the equivalent vigorous activity) for all adults, and an average of 60 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per day for children and adolescents.
3 All physical activity counts.
Physical activity can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transport (walking, wheeling and cycling), as well as every day
and household tasks.
4 Muscle strengthening benefits everyone.
Older adults (aged 65 years and older) should add physical activities which emphasize balance and coordination, as well as muscle
strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health.
5 Too much sedentary behaviour can be unhealthy.
It can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. Limiting sedentary time and being physically active is good for health.
6 Everyone can benefit from increasing physical activity
and reducing sedentary behaviour, including pregnant and postpartum women and people living with chronic conditions or disability.