Current evidence

The World Health Organisation recommends adults perform a certain amount of physical activity in order to reduce their risk of chronic disease and mortality. Many governments around the world are in agreement with the WHO and have adopted these guidelines into their public health promotion. In fact, the governments of Australia, United Kingdom and USA have virtually identical minimum physical activity recommendations.

 Government and WHO physical activity guidelines:

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  • Be active every day
  • Accumulate 75 mins of vigorous activity OR 150 mins of moderate activity per week
  • Incorporate two resistance training sessions per week
  • US and AUS further recommend to aim for 150/300 mins per week

But, is it really enough?

A recent study by researchers from the University of Washington, Dartmouth College and the University of Queensland is making waves in the field of public health. This research proposes that the guidelines are far too low and that we should be aiming to achieve much greater levels of exercise in order to reap the health benefits. In fact, the authors suggest we should be getting about five times the amount of physical activity recommended by WHO and various governments. I know, right? Five times! That sounds pretty disheartening. Especially considering how hard you work just to reach the magical 10,000 steps per day! But not to worry, your hard work is not in vain.

Results from the same study show that if you are currently achieving the minimum guidelines of 150 mins of moderate activity per week, you are significantly reducing your risk of stroke and heart disease. If you are able to make a bit more time for activity and reach the 300 mins per week of moderate activity, then your risk from metabolic disease, obesity and some cancers is also reduced. However, where the researchers have done an excellent job, is to identify a sweet spot of sorts. There is a zone of physical activity (approximately 700 minutes per week of moderate exercise) at which point the risk posed by such chronic disease is reduced most dramatically.

Proven benefits of increased physical activity:

  • Reduced risk of stroke
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Stronger bones
  • Reduced risk of some cancers
  • Alleviate depression
  • Weight management

Take home message

Any increase in physical activity is proven to reduce your risk of many chronic health conditions. Secondly, if you can meet the WHO guidelines (150-300 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise per week) you will further reduce your relative health risk as well as making weight management more achievable. Finally, if your circumstances are such that you can really boost your physical activity to at least 700 minutes per week then the health benefits accumulate exponentially up to that point.

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You don’t need to be in the gym for hours every night to rack up the physical activity minutes.

Anything which gets your heart rate up, makes you breathe a little heavier and get a light sweat is valuable.

So make sure you count the time spent mowing the lawn, walking to work, cleaning the house etc.

If you would like help to increase the amount, the intensity or the quality of your current exercise routine please get in touch with our physiotherapists. We are qualified to provide advice, prescribe an exercise programme and address any physical issues that might prevent you being as active as you would like.

Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010. Available from:
Kyu Hmwe H, Bachman Victoria F, Alexander Lily T, Mumford John Everett, Afshin Ashkan, Estep Kara et al. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013; BMJ 2016; 354.