Vehicles, machines and technology now complete the tasks that once required physical effort. Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement, produced by skeletal muscles, that requires energy. This includes activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling and engaging in recreational pursuits.
Examples of such activities are lifting, carrying, walking, cycling, climbing stairs, housework, shopping, dancing, and gardening 1.
The Compendium of Physical Activities is used to estimate the metabolic intensity of an activity compared to a resting state. See Annex 1 and 2 on definitions and the classification of physical activities with further details and examples. Moreover, the human body is built to move, and major systems, including the skeletal, muscular, metabolic, circulatory, digestive and endocrine systems, do not develop and function properly unless stimulated by frequent physical activity.
As such, physical activity has both a preventive and therapeutic effect across several diseases and conditions and contributes to quality of life in many ways.
The main focus of the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases is on prevention and treatment of heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes; the main causes of poor health and early death in Europe and worldwide. Recommendations for physical activity must be underpinned by science and much of the research effort in this field has focused on the amount and type of physical activity needed to remain healthy. This has been collated and thoroughly reviewed by a number of health authorities. The risk of premature death decreases as the amount of physical activity per week rises.
The benefits of increasing regular physical activity have been observed in people irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity or weight status. Figure 1. Early research on cardiorespiratory health, which involves heart, lungs and blood vessels, suggested that only vigorous aerobic or endurance activity, such as running or fast swimming, was of benefit to these systems.
Similarly, it was found that those who undertake regular, moderate physical activity of about minutes per week have lower rates of type 2 diabetes or impaired blood glucose levels, compared to those who are less active. Musculoskeletal fitness is positively associated with bone health, improved balance, functional independence, a reduced risk of falling and injuries in the elderly, improved mobility, psychological well-being and a better overall quality of life.
There are specific recommendations for different age groups. The level chosen is also realistic and achievable for the majority of people and unlikely to lead to musculoskeletal injuries. It equates to being moderately active for 30 minutes, five days per week. It is also now recognised that it is not necessary to do the activity continuously for 30 minutes, as bouts of 10 minutes or more are beneficial.
In other words, 3 sessions of 10 minutes per day would be equally suitable. It is better to be active on a regular basis at least 3 days per week , as this conditions the body and provides regular stimulation to the body systems, rather than very active intermittently e. This is to reduce functional limitations, prevent falls and promote independent living. Active children have good cardiovascular fitness and strong muscles and bones.
Weight bearing physical activity is especially important for children and young adolescents because this stimulates bone mass. The greatest gains in bone mass occur in the years just before and during puberty with peak bone mass being achieved at the end of puberty. This helps to protect against osteoporosis and bone thinning in old age. The same positive dose response relationship between physical activity and health is observed in children, but the recommended level both duration and intensity is higher than in adults. Table 1.
There is no doubt that being inactive is unhealthy. Adults who do not achieve the recommended minutes of physical activity per week should work gradually towards this goal. The good news is that even small amounts of physical activity have profound benefits to health, particularly for those who go from being completely sedentary to doing as little as 30 minutes of activity per week.
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For example starting with slow walking for 5 minutes each day, then increasing to 10 minutes and gradually increasing the speed. Most country specific guidelines recommend the same basic amounts and types of activity. However there are some differences in the scope of the guidance. For example UK and Swiss guidelines include advice to limit time spent being sedentary such as sitting in front of TV or other screens. New technologies have enabled people to reduce the amount of physical labour needed to accomplish many everyday tasks at work and at home.
Private car ownership reduces the need for active transportation such as walking or cycling, and television, computers, and electronic entertainment have made it increasingly attractive to engage in sedentary leisure pursuits, particularly in the young. However, the extent of the impact of these changes on our physical activity levels has only been understood relatively recently, due to introduction of standardised ways of measuring physical activity such as with accelerometers and the inclusion of all types of activities to assess how active people really are, including occupational, household, transport and recreational physical activity.
This more complete set of data has revealed that low income countries are the most active due to greater occupational manual jobs and transport related activity walking or cycling , followed by middle income countries, with high income countries being the least active. Despite promising increases in voluntary, recreational physical activity such as sport and exercise in high income countries, this does not compensate for the overall drop in incidental, activity in other areas of everyday life.
Using historical data on time spent on occupational and domestic work, travel, and leisure activities with MET hours METs multiplied by the hours spent performing the activity is a way of estimating the energy costs of the activity. A similar pattern was observed in the US, and more rapid drops in activity levels over a shorter period of time were seen in China and Brazil, probably linked to large scale urbanisation and technological advancement.
Figure 2. MET stands for metabolic equivalents, estimating the energy costs of the activity Levels of sport and physical activity have been monitored by Eurobarometer surveys. They show that within Europe, physical activity declines with age, males are more active than females, and the highly educated are more active that the less educated. The most recent survey shows that people in the Northern part of the EU are more likely to play sport or exercise, whilst those in the Southern member states are less likely to.
By contrast, walking was more prevalent in Southern and Eastern Europe. Overall, there appears to be an enthusiastic minority of Europeans who participate in formal physical activity such as sport, and who are also more likely to engage in other activities like cycling to work. Equally, about 1 in 10 Europeans are extremely inactive and do not even manage to walk for 10 minutes a day. Comparing physical activity levels in Europe over time is difficult due to differences in definitions and methods used.
Few surveys have been carried out across the region with sufficiently consistent data. The most recent versions have focused on both sport and the wider concept of physical activity. Keeping active basics Getting started Staying fit and motivated Exercise safety and injury prevention Healthy eating and exercise Keeping active throughout life Health conditions and exercise Keeping active basics Balancing energy in and energy out A kilojoule is a unit of measure of energy, in the same way that kilometres measure distance Energy in food kilojoules and calories A kilojoule is a unit of measure of energy, in the same way that kilometres measure distance Exercise intensity If you can talk but not sing, you?
Benefits of exercise - NHS
Exercise in your local surroundings video Want to exercise, but find gyms boring or expensive? Exercise - the low-down on hydration You need to drink enough and regularly to keep hydrated during exercise Exercise with a friend Exercise is important for your physical and mental health. Fitness centres — how to choose one Do some research before signing up at a fitness centre Personal trainers — how to choose one Make sure your personal trainer is properly qualified before entering into any agreement Physical activity for men Many men are only motivated to become more active after they have a health scare Physical activity for seniors Physical activity can help older people maintain independence, recover from illness and reduce their risk of disease Physical activity for women If you can't make the time to exercise for yourself, do it for your family Physical activity - it's important Just 30 minutes of moderate activity each day can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing certain conditions or diseases Physical activity — setting yourself goals When you're trying to become more physically active, set realistic health and fitness goals Physical activity - what's your excuse?
Resistance training — health benefits If you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger Secrets to healthy ageing slideshow Experts say the key to living well into our 80s and 90s is making a commitment to live healthily. Getting started Exercise programs If you are unfamiliar with what is involved, starting an exercise program can be challenging Gardening for children Children can learn new skills, have fun and develop self-confidence when they grow their own plants Gardening for health - starting out Gardening is a healthy activity that can be enjoyed by everyone Gardening for older people Garden spaces and equipment can be modified or adapted to help older people enjoy gardening Gardening safety Gardening is an enjoyable form of exercise, but you need to take care Getting active - tucker talk tips The main thing is to choose physical activities that you enjoy and that you can stick to in the long term Physical activity - choosing a provider Choosing the right fitness centre or service provider requires some research Physical activity — choosing the one for you You are more likely to keep up a healthy lifestyle change if your chosen activity suits you Physical activity — how to get started If you've been inactive and want to begin physical activity, see a doctor first Physical activity - learn how to swim video Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for all ages and abilities.
Physical activity - overcoming barriers video Former world aerobics champion, Sue Stanley shows us how to overcome common exercise excuses Physical activity — overcoming the barriers If you think physical activity is boring, try exercising with a friend Staying fit and motivated 10 tips to plan your exercise Physical activity won't just happen. Exercise and mood Exercise can have an enormous impact on your mood. Exercise - everyday activities There are lots of everyday activities that provide an opportunity to be active and provide health benefits Exercise programs If you are unfamiliar with what is involved, starting an exercise program can be challenging Pets can make you healthy video Australians have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world Physical activity - staying active during summer video Physical Activity and Fitness Trainer Sherri Bourne gives us some great tips for staying active over the summer months Physical activity - staying motivated Pick an exercise or fitness activity that appeals to you and suits your lifestyle Stretching exercise in winter video When starting out an exercise program, it's really important to do a warm up and cool down before and after exercise Exercise safety and injury prevention 10 tips for safe stretching Make stretching part of your life Aerobics - preventing injury Aerobics injuries are usually caused by trauma and overuse, but can be prevented by using the right techniques and equipment Australian rules football - preventing injury Australian rules football is a physical contact sport that often results in injuries from tackling, kicking, running and constant competition for the ball Basketball - health benefits Basketball is a sport enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities Basketball - preventing injury Basketball is a fast game with frequent and aggressive body contacts - injuries can and do occur Canoeing and kayaking - health benefits Canoeing and kayaking can be done as a hobby, a competitive sport or as a fun activity on holidays Canoeing and kayaking - preventing injury Careful preparation and the right equipment can help prevent canoeing and kayaking injuries Cricket - health benefits To play cricket you need to be fit and strong and have good hand-eye coordination and ball-handling skills Cricket - preventing injury Cricket is a very popular sport.
Cycling - health benefits Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases Cycling - preventing injury You are much more likely to hurt yourself by falling off your bike or hitting a stationary object than colliding with another vehicle Dance - health benefits Dancing can be a fun way to stay fit for people of all ages and abilities Dancing - preventing injury Dancing is fun and a great form of exercise, but make sure you avoid injuries Dog walking - the health benefits If you are planning to buy a dog, make sure you choose a breed that's appropriate to your lifestyle Exercise safety Training too hard or fast is a common cause of sports-related injuries Fishing - preventing injury Never go fishing alone?
Golf - preventing injury The average golfer playing an hole game walks about seven kilometres Heat stress and exercise Heat stress occurs when sweat can't evaporate fast enough to keep the body sufficiently cool during physical activity How to survive a rip current video Learn what to do if you find yourself in a rip current Healthy eating and exercise Food for sport - tucker talk tips Carbohydrate is the most important nutrient for athletes Sporting performance and food Good nutrition and a healthy diet are essential to improving your sports performance Keeping active throughout life 10 tips for active seniors Stay independent for longer with regular exercise Children — keeping them active A young child is naturally active, so build upon their inclinations to use their body Exercise and stretching in the office video Sitting behind a desk all day doesn't mean you can't exercise Gardens for all — a health activity Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits, and is an activity that most people can enjoy Healthy active Koori kids - tucker talk tips Good nutrition and physical exercise help to keep Koori kids healthy and avoid diseases when they get older Healthy ageing — stay involved Reach out to the world around you for fun, a sense of achievement, social contact and mental stimulation Healthy and active ageing Being physically active, eating well, socialising and improving your health can help you live a healthy, happy and active life as you get older How to volunteer and boost your health slideshow Volunteering is great for our health — it makes us feel good, while helping others in the process Older people in hospital — Get well soon Learn about improving and maintaining your health during a hospital stay Parent's guide for active girls Physical activity is an important part of health and wellbeing, and girls should remain active as they grow up Physical activity for seniors — staying active during summer video Physical Activity and Fitness Trainer - Sherri Bourne shares a few easy and low-impact ways for seniors to stay healthy over the summer months Postnatal exercise Always consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any postnatal exercise program Pregnancy and exercise Unless you have complications, you should be able to exercise throughout your pregnancy Sport and children Make sure that some family outings offer opportunities for physical activity, such as playing sport together Vision loss and sport Many sports can be adapted to suit people who are blind or have low vision Walking for good health Walking will improve your fitness and reduce your risk of heart disease Walking - the benefits for older people Walking is great exercise for older people.
Health conditions and exercise Arthritis and exercise Exercise can reduce some of the symptoms of arthritis, and improve joint mobility and strength Asthma and exercise Exercise-induced asthma can be prevented with medication and by preparing for exercise and physical activity Breathing problems and exercise A little physical activity and some breathing exercises can help people with lung disease Cancer - exercise to help you cope People with cancer should be as physically active as their abilities and condition allow Dementia - reducing your risk Adopting a 'brain healthy' lifestyle may reduce your risk of dementia in later life Diabetes - issues for children and teenagers Many parents worry when their child with diabetes starts or returns to school Epilepsy and employment Many people living with epilepsy are successfully employed across a range of professional fields Epilepsy and exercise It is rare for a person with epilepsy to have a seizure during physical activity, but you should always take safety precautions when exercising HIV, hepatitis and sport People with HIV or hepatitis B or C participate in a wide range of sports without restrictions, and the risk of transmission to another player is extremely small Menstruation - athletic amenorrhoea Women who are athletes or who exercise a lot on a regular basis are at risk of developing athletic amenorrhoea, which is the absence of periods Osteoporosis and exercise Exercise can reduce the risk of fractures resulting from osteoporosis by both slowing the rate of bone loss, and reducing the person?
Sports injuries A sports injury may be more severe than you think Type 2 diabetes - healthy eating and exercise video People with type 2 diabetes talk about positive lifestyle changes that improve their quality of life Related Information.
Keeping active Becoming physically active, safety, types of physical activity and exercise and health conditions Related information on other websites. A Healthy Active Australia. Bushwalk Victoria. Health-related beneficial effects are observed in older people with no apparent health condition and in those with common non-communicable chronic health conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Less is known about frail older adults and those with disabilities.
A recent meta-analysis showed that increased physical activity not only delays the onset of functional limitation but it also slows down the progression of functional decline in older adults with and without disabilities. These groups of the population have an increased challenge to regularly exercise at a level to promote improved health outcomes. Recent reviews and meta-analyses 54—56 concluded that exercise had a small-to-moderate positive effect on mobility and physical functioning in frail and mobility-limited older adults, with higher intensity exercise being more effective than low intensity on the outcome of physical function.
Although no clear guidance could be drawn from the meta-analysis about the best type of exercise, 56—58 there was an indication that strength training interventions were important for functional improvement. Older adults, particularly those with chronic health conditions, have relatively high rates of attendance at physician's offices; this puts the family physician in a strong position to give exercise-related advice. Older adults who received physical activity advice from their physician performed more moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity than those who did not receive advice.
There is some criticism of the advice given by healthcare providers regarding increasing physical activity levels; one important criticism was that general advice is given with no specifics on how the older adult should go about increasing their activity levels or what they should specifically do.
Perhaps of more interest was the significantly lower rate of hospitalisation in the year following the intervention in the experimental group compared with the controls. Self-efficacy, a person's belief in their ability to successfully perform a specific behaviour, 65 is a concept that has been linked to exercise behaviour in older adults. Self-efficacy may be particularly important in the initial adoption of exercise programmes.
A review considering adults with no identified cardiovascular disease risk factors concluded that the evidence supporting behavioural interventions is weak and should not be generally adopted without further supporting evidence. Recent research has considered the use of financial incentives to improve adherence to health-related behaviours in an attempt to impact health outcomes.
The group that received financial incentives had significantly higher walking activity levels than their non-financially rewarded counterparts. Those in the financial incentive group also walked more frequently and for longer durations. While the research in this area is new with many questions remaining unanswered as yet, further research may help to clarify the role of incentives in promoting physical activity and exercise participation. In addition to positive physical effects of increasing physical activity there is a growing body of evidence indicating cognitive benefits.
Paterson et al 's 38 review of the effects of exercise on cognition concluded that although the data look promising, information about the specific dose and type of exercise is as yet unknown and further research needs to be undertaken. There are some promising indications that moderate level exercise reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment in older adults, 69 , 70 and that for people with mild cognitive deficits, there may be a protective effect of exercise.
So, for many older adults, the benefits of exercise are substantial and are likely to improve health-related outcomes. One of the challenges for healthcare practitioners today is to help people to attain and maintain levels of physical activity that will be beneficial. With the average population age increasing in industrialised countries, there is an increase in the proportion of older adults, many of whom are at risk for developing non-communicable chronic health conditions. Older adults are generally less physically active than younger adults. In the presence of strong evidence linking physical inactivity to chronic health conditions and increased physical activity to lower mortality and morbidity in older adults, it is imperative to develop a strong commitment to improving physical activity levels in older adults.
Governments around the world have begun to produce national guidelines for physical activity and health for older adults. The main challenge is to find effective ways to support older adults to increase their physical activity and then to develop habitual physical activity behaviours. Individual health practitioners have an important role in discussing and making recommendations around physical activity. GPs should have sufficient understanding of physical activity prescription to make recommendations to patients about type, amount, intensity and frequency of physical activity for health gain.