How much physical activity should you do?

There are physical activity guidelines covering all ages published by the UK Chief Medical Officer. These guidelines focus on being active every day and give the recommended minimum levels of activity for each age group.

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Ladies exercising in a keep fit class

Exercise guidelines

Guidelines for 0-5 years:

Under-5s Infants (less than 1 year): 
Infants should be physically active several times every day in a variety of ways, including interactive floor-based activity, e.g. crawling.

For infants who are not yet mobile, this should include at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake. This should include other movements such as reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling themselves independently, or rolling over.

Tummy time may be unfamiliar to babies at first, but can be increased gradually, starting from a minute or two at a time, as the baby becomes used to it. Babies should not sleep on their tummies.

Toddlers (1-2 years):
Toddlers should spend at least 180 minutes (3 hours) per day in a variety of physical activities at any intensity, including active and outdoor play, spread throughout the day;

Pre-schoolers (3-4 years):
Pre-schoolers should spend at least 180 minutes (3 hours) per day in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play. More is better; the 180 minutes should include at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Physical activity guidelines 0-5years

Guidelines for 5-18 years:

Children and young people aged 5 to 18 need to do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and ball games. Three times a week, activities should include exercises for strong muscles and bones, such as swinging on playground equipment, hopping and skipping, gymnastics and other sports.

Children and young people should reduce the time they spend sitting for long periods of time, including watching TV, playing computer games and travelling by car when they could walk or cycle.

Physical activity guidelines 5-18 years​​​​​​​

More information can be found here

Guidelines for 19 to 64 years:

Adults should try to be active every day with a variety of different activities.

They should include strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

And aim to do

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity e.g. cycling or brisk walking every week. 
  • Or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or fitness classes.
  • Or a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activities e.g. two 30 minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking which would equal 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity.

A good rule is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity. One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes five days every week. All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

More information can be found here

Guidelines for older adults aged 65 and over

Adults aged 65 or older who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility should try to be active daily. 

They should include strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

And aim to do

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week
  • Or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week
  • Or a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week (for example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity)

A general rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.

More information can be found here

You should also try to break up long periods of sitting with light activity, as sedentary behaviour is now considered an independent risk factor for ill health, no matter how much exercise you do.

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