New UK physical activity guidelines for you

The UK government released new Physical Activity Guidelines the other week. In my last blog post (“Why do it“) I gave you a summary of the benefits of exercise and activity. In this post I will give you a summary of what the guidelines suggest for all the different age ranges and populations. So lets start at the start….

Physical activity for babies to 5 years old

Physical activity guidelines for babies and toddlers

The poster above shows the physical activity guidelines for newborns and toddlers. Not only does activity (or exercise) improve a babies physical health, but also to their overall development into a well rounded human.

  • Building relationship and social skills. So children learn how to interact with each other, make friends, learn how other people act/behave etc.
  • Contributes to brain development and learning. The more babies move and interact with the world and everything in it, the more they gain experience about how it works, doesn’t work and how to figure things out for themselves.
  • Improves sleep. The same thing goes for adults. If we get tired during the day, we sleep better at night.
  • Encourages movement and coordination. A concept I have used in training a lot over the years is “movement puzzles”. Our body is an amazingly complex tool that can accomplish millions of tasks in billions of ways. Experience helps us figure out different, better, more efficient ways to do things. And this starts when we are a baby.

The other thing I take from the guidelines above, is the wide range of activities suggested. The wider the range of activities they can experience, the better.

And do you notice at the bottom, it says Get Strong?

Physical activity for 5-18 years old

Physical activity guidelines for 15-18 year olds

This age group benefits physically in the same ways as the previous one. But it is interesting to note the addition of Confidence, Healthy Weight and Makes You Feel Good. These are not just physical, but psychological, mental or emotional benefits too. Feeling and looking good tend to become more important in this age range.

Another thing to note is that it still includes activities such as Play and Active Travel (just being active in your everyday life), while also bringing in more “grown up” things like Working Out, Sport etc.

The report says that there is no single activity or exercise that is best. Again, this age bracket should take part in a wide range of things. The focus should be on identifying activities that they find enjoyable, and on creating opportunities to be active.

I think a key thing here is to develop the habit of minimising being still. Evidence suggests that habits and activity levels developed in this age range track into adult life. So setting the scene now can help your child for the rest of their lives.

And again, do you notice the recommendation to Get Strong and for muscle and bone strengthening activities x3 per week?

Physical activity for Adults

Physical activity guidelines for for adults and older adults

The benefits here include all those from previous age brackets, but now also include more “adult” benefits such as Stress, Quality Of Life, Depression, Joint Pain etc.

Notice how central to the poster is the advice to Build Strength at least x2 per week? In case you haven’t noticed, regardless of who you are, getting and staying as strong as possible is good for us.

And knowing the average adult life, it not only recommends to be as active as possible, but also stresses to minimise sitting still for long periods of time. Think back over the last week and see if you can work out how long you have been still during your work, your commute or evening. It often makes for an eye opening exercise!

And finally, notice the 3 statements:

  • Some is good, more is better. Regardless who we are, we can improve on our current situation. When it comes to activity/exercise, the more the merrier!
  • Make a start today, it’s never too late. I have trained with people with medical conditions, injuries and also very late in their lives. I’ve yet to find one who has not benefited in some way from moving more. And seriously, start today! We are great at procrastinating, so don’t wait until Monday, or the New Year. Remember, even a small dose is good, so get the ball rolling and do something today.
  • Every minute counts. This reiterates that there is no minimum dose when it comes to activity and exercise. Remember that thing you are going to start today? Start with just 1 minute if you want! Because that 1 minute will make a difference if you let it.

Physical activity for Pregnant women

Physical activity guidelines for pregnant women

I did a roundup of pregnancy advice a few years ago when my friend was having her child, and I don’t think much has changed since. You can take a look at what I wrote here: Exercise during pregnancy.

But remember, just because a woman is pregnant, they don’t suddenly become a different species and need to be treated in a whole new way. All the same benefits of activity and exercise persist during pregnancy. You just need to be aware of a couple of things.

  • If you are currently not active, start gradually. But notice that it is still recommended that you start!
  • If you are already active, keep going. There is no evidence at all that exercise during pregnancy is dangerous to the mother or child.

The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity each week is the same as for regular adults….just because you are having a baby doesn’t mean you should be less fit.

And at the risk of flogging a dead horse, did you notice where it says Do Muscle Strengthening Activities Twice A Week? Personally, I would argue that having a child is a very good reason to be as strong as possible and certainly not the time to become weaker.

Physical activity for Women after childbirth

Physical activity guidelines for women after childbirth

Childbirth is a time of great change and challenge for the body. But the fitter and stronger the body is before and during pregnancy, the better position it is in to recover afterwards. Exercise and activity during this period helps with all the usual things we have covered already, but also specific things that may be of interest to new mums:

  • Time for yourself to not only physically, but emotionally refresh yourself after the stresses of childbirth.
  • Improves mood. Helps you get back into the regular routine of life and remind yourself that you are you, not just mum.
  • Improves tummy muscles and strength. The core goes through a fair amount of “trauma” during childbirth. Exercise and activity helps them recover. More on this later…
  • Helps weight control. Alongside a healthy diet (see Eat Better for more), exercise and activity helps mothers get back to their pre-pregnancy body weight.

The recommendations are the same for during pregnancy…if you have been inactive in the past, start gradually. If you have been active in the past, restart gradually. But the same goes for all new mothers….get active again!

Note that the recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week is just the same for pregnant women and all other adults. This activity can be things you do by yourself (walking, hiking, swimming, going to the gym etc) or they can be things that incorporate your child. There are more mother and baby exercise classes around the place these days.

Note that both pelvic floor exercises and general muscle strengthening exercises should be started as soon as practical. Again, being strong is a good thing and everyone should aim to build and keep as much strength as possible throughout our lives.

Physical activity for Disabled adults

Physical activity guidelines for disabled adults

I do a fair amount of work with people with mobility issues and disabilities (see our Get Moving page for more info), so it was great to see this poster. For me, again, it was great to see how similar this guidance is to regular adults. Don’t ever forget, just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean they are not human or suddenly “special”…they run the same risks of eating too much and moving too little as everyone else.

The points on the poster are equally applicable to everyone else. I was going to go through all the points on the poster, but if I did, all I would end up saying is how important they all are for everyone, whatever ability level they are.

So instead I want everyone to notice how the 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and x2 strength training sessions per week is the same for everyone. Remember, just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean their bodies don’t respond the same to too much food and too little strength.

And finally, note that it recommends x2 times a week for balance exercises. This will obviously depend on the specific disability, but some people may get great benefit from the confidence and ability that comes from balance training.

People with disabilities are still people. They are not special creatures to be treated differently.

Risks of physical activity

And to finish up, just a couple of thoughts on the risks that come from physical activity and exercise. In my time, a common reason given for not being more active is the risk of being injured or hurt that comes with it.

The report mentions these risks and break them into a few main groups:

  • Musculoskeletal – injuries to bones, joints etc.
  • Cardiac events – damage to heart or at worst, heart attacks.
  • Rotator cuff tears/inflammation in wheelchair users – shoulder issues from greater use of the upper body.

I’m just going to note some of the key points they make, when it comes to these injuries:

  • The health benefits accrued from such activity outweigh the risks. In other words, the low risks of these injuries are are worth the higher risks of chronic heart problems, diabetes etc.
  • With disabled adults, the available evidence suggests there are no major risks of engaging in physical activity when it is performed for an appropriate duration and at an appropriate level of intensity for the individual. In other words, the risks are worth it for disabled people too.
  • There is little evidence to suggest that physical activity is unsafe for anyone when performed at an intensity and in a manner appropriate to an individual’s current activity level, health status and physical function. In other words, the risks are low, especially when you are not being stupid.

“The health benefits of activity far outweigh the risks of being active.”

The way I see it, being active runs the low risk of knocks, bangs etc. I snapped my achilles tendon (a fairly serious injury). This caused me problems, difficulties and forced me to change the way I worked….for a couple of months.

The alternative is the high risk of suffering from things like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and an ever growing list of conditions and diseases that will cause me problems, difficulties, force me to change my entire lifestyle and possibly be on medication…for decades until the end of my life.