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Activity can offset sedentary lifestyle - WHO says

Thursday November 26th 2020

Exceeding the recommendations for weekly physical activity can offset the health harms associated with prolonged sitting, says new guidelines from the World Health Organisation.

It is the first time that WHO has made this recommendation and it reflects a growing body of evidence that links extensive sedentary time to serious ill health and a heightened risk of early death.

However, the guidelines, published in a dedicated issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, emphasise that any activity is better than none.

New data also released published in the same edition, show that adults who spend long hours sedentary every day can counter these risks by increasing the amount of physical activity they do.

The research involved more than 44,000 people wearing activity trackers from four countries and the team established that 10 hours or more of daily sedentary time is linked to a significantly heightened risk of death, particularly among people who are physically inactive.

But 30 to 40 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity substantially weakens this risk, bringing it down to levels associated with very low amounts of sedentary time.

These findings broadly confirm the recommendations in the 2020 WHO Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour.

The new WHO guidelines involved more than 40 scientists from six continents and provide a consensus on the latest science on the health impacts of physical activity and sedentary behaviour from early childhood through to older age, and update WHO global recommendations for physical health, last published in 2010.

The guidelines say although there is insufficient evidence to recommend specific maximum thresholds for sedentary behaviour, it recommends that everyone, irrespective of their age or abilities, should try to limit their daily sedentary time and replace it with physical activity of any intensity.

WHO recommends a weekly tally of 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity, or at least 75-100 minutes of vigorous intensity, physical activity, but stresses that any amount of physical activity is better for health than none.

Those unable to meet these recommendations should start small and gradually build up the frequency, intensity, and duration of their physical activity over time.

The guidelines also recommend undertaking muscle-strengthening activity at moderate or greater intensity at least twice a week, while adults over 65 should focus on physical activity that emphasises functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity a minimum of three times a week.

Professor Fiona Bull, of WHO and the co-editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine special issue, said: “The most recent global estimates show that one in four (27.5%) adults and more than three-quarters (81%) of teenagers don’t meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise, as outlined in the 2010 Global Recommendations. So, there’s an urgent need for governments to prioritise and invest in national initiatives and health and community services that promote physical activity.

“The publication of these new WHO global guidelines can support implementation of policy recommendations set out in the WHO’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030 to achieve its ambitious target of 15% improvement by 2030.”

World Health Organization Guidelines British Journal of Sports medicine 26 November 2020


Tags: Fitness | Heart Health | World Health

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