Health

Strengthen muscles as well as heart to stay fit and healthy, say top doctors

Adults are advised to do muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week, as well as aerobic exercise, to help them stay active for longer, under new guidance from the UK's top doctors.

For the first time, it includes advice on safe activity levels for pregnant women and new mums.

Dance, bowls or Tai Chi are advised for over-65s to reduce falls in old age.

Physical activity protects against obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression, the advice says.

The new guidelines on physical activity have been produced by the UK's chief medical officers and updated to reflect the latest scientific evidence.

Their message is that any activity is better than none, and more is even better.

Prof Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said most children and adults in the UK are not active enough.

"We need more active travel, we need people to get off the bus or the tube a stop early.

"We need people to climb stairs instead of getting in a lift…

"We need to be more active."

The guidelines recommend that adults build strength and balance to help stave off the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density that starts around the age of 50.

What is recommended in the guidelines?

For under-5s

  • infants – 30 mins of tummy time – when the baby is on its front – for infants not yet mobile every day
  • toddlers – 180 minutes per day doing active play
  • pre-schoolers – 180 minutes per day of physical activity, including at least 60 mins of moderate to vigorous exercise

For 5-18 year olds

  • at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day across the week, such as PE, active travel, after-school activities and sport.
  • develop muscle fitness and bone strength
  • minimise time spent being sedentary

For 19-64 year olds

  • aim to be physically active every day
  • develop or maintain strength of muscles by doing heavy gardening, carrying heavy shopping or resistance exercise – 2 days a week
  • at least 150 minutes of activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like running each week
  • minimise time spent being sedentary – break up long periods of inactivity

For over-65s

  • some physical activity is better than none
  • on two days a week, activity to improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility, including Tai Chi, dance, bowls and aqua-aerobics
  • each week, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, building up gradually
  • break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light activity when possible, at least with standing

For pregnant women

  • aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week
  • vigorous activity is not recommended for women who were previously inactive
  • don't bump the bump
  • do muscle strengthening activities twice a week

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