Physical Activity: Recommendations For All Age Groups

Physical Activity: Recommendations For All Age Groups

Physical activity is one of the essential elements for a healthy life. Along with not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption and a healthy diet.

The exercise is considered one of the most effective behaviors to prevent the appearance of numerous diseases throughout life: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung or bone diseases, Celiac disease.

Physical activity

What exactly do we mean when we talk about physical activity?

We often tend to associate it with sports or planned and structured physical exercise, such as running or activities in the gym.

In fact, the definition of physical activity is much broader: according to the World Health Organization it is “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure”.

Therefore, the expression physical activity includes all the movement that takes place in the course of a day and in daily life.

Of course, not all forms of physical activity are equal in terms of their effects on the body: some involve minimal energy expenditure, others lead to maximal physical capabilities.

How much physical activity

Research over many years has sought to understand what, for each category of people, is the type and drive required to produce consistent health benefits.

Studies so far have made it clear that there are two universal principles, valid for anyone regardless of age:

  • Practicing any type of physical activity is better than not doing it at all, and the advantages are greater the longer it is achieved.
  • Prolong the habit of moving. This does not mean, however, that those who have been lazy in the past do not benefit from starting to exercise even late.

Without prejudice to these principles, the scientific community has developed specific guidelines specific to age and individual characteristics (for example, pregnancy status or a disabling condition).

The WHO guidelines are not specifically designed to reduce the risk of cancer, but to preserve general health.

However, by following these guidelines, it is possible to reduce the chances of developing various types of cancer.

Moderate or intense?

The distinction most often found in movement guidelines is between moderate and vigorous physical activity.

Moderate activity is one that induces a modest increase in heart and respiratory rate, generally allowing, while doing it, to be able to speak quite easily (but not sing).

This is the case, for example, with fast walking. This type of physical activity involves the consumption of 3 to 6 times the energy that is usually consumed at rest.

When practicing intense physical activity, on the other hand, the increase in heart and respiratory rate makes conversation difficult. This is what happens, for example, during a jog that is not very sustained.

This type of physical activity involves an energy expenditure at least 6 times higher than that produced at rest.

Indications for all

So what is the recommended level of physical activity? Here are the main indications by age group.


Physical activity adults

In the age group 18 to 64 years, it is recommended to perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity.

These goals can be achieved, for example, with 5 sessions of moderate exercise per week of at least 30-60 minutes or performing at least 25-50 minutes of intense exercise 3 times a week.

So it would be necessary to include muscle-strengthening activities (exercises such as pull-ups, pull-ups, weights) in the “movement diet” at least twice a week on non-consecutive days.

Additionally, adults are advised to limit the amount of time they spend sedentary. To the extent possible, at least some of that downtime should be spent engaging in physical activity of any intensity.


Advanced age is not a contraindication for exercise. In fact, if possible, it would be good to increase the amount, differentiating the activities carried out.

According to WHO guidelines, from the age of 65, moderate-intensity aerobic activities should continue for at least 150-300 minutes or vigorous aerobic physical activity for 75-150 minutes.

To this should be added muscle strengthening exercises, two or more times a week.

In addition, to maintain physical abilities and prevent falls, it is necessary to perform multicomponent physical activity, that is, a combination of aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and balance training, at least three days a week.

The most common chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, are not a contraindication for exercising after the age of 65.

Suggested movement levels are similar to non-ill peers, within the limits of what is compatible with individual physical capabilities.

Also in this case, the principle that it is much better to do little physical activity than to give it up for fear of not reaching the recommended thresholds is valid.

If you have doubts about the incompatibility between your condition and the movement, it is good that you talk to your doctor who will be able to advise you on the matter.


Children and adolescents should do at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activities, mainly aerobic, throughout the week.

In particular, three days a week should be dedicated to vigorous aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscles and bones.

It’s also very important to limit the amount of time you spend sedentary, especially in front of a screen, whether it’s the TV, computer, or smartphone.

How to increase physical activity levels

The levels of physicals activities recommended by the guides are at first glance very ambitious: at least 30-60 minutes of basic activity per day for adults and 60 for children, to which can be added at least two or three more demanding workouts a day a week.

The problem is not just laziness: the increasingly complex organization of life, widespread work and, for children, the many school and extracurricular activities seem to leave little room for movement.

With this approach, there are countless opportunities to stay active:

  • Walk or bike to work or school.
  • Get off public transport one stop before, if you use it, and complete the journey on foot.
  • Avoid taking the car for short trips.
  • Take the stairs instead of using the elevator.
  • Gardening or housework.

It would be enough to incorporate these simple daily activities into your routine to reach or come very close to your goals.

movement is not enough

However, there is another aspect to consider. Exercise alone is not enough if a sedentary lifestyle is not also combated.

It seems like a contradiction, but actually sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity are not two equivalent concepts.

You can be physically active and achieve the recommended amount of physical activity but be sedentary at the same time.

Just think of those who jog in the morning but then spend the rest of the day in the car or sitting at their desk.

This type of sedentary lifestyle is considered a risk factor in addition to simple inactivity.

There are no definitive data available in this regard, however, several studies seem to suggest that performing the recommended amount of physical activity is capable of counteracting or at least mitigating the negative effects of this type of sedentary lifestyle.

Also for this reason, the scientific community recommends frequently interrupting the periods in which one is sitting, at least every 30 minutes, with short periods of activity, even as little as 2-3 minutes.

You can take short walks, bend over on your legs, even just repeatedly getting up from a chair or sofa.

Periodically alternating the sitting position with the standing position are small tricks that can help counteract the damage caused by a sedentary lifestyle.


Although physical activities can be considered any movement, the reality is that it goes beyond that and you must have habits.

  • Accompany your physical activities with a healthy diet and keep in mind what you should eat when you play sports.
  • A sedentary lifestyle can become a habit involuntarily, so it should be avoided.
  • Taking active breaks in working time is essential.
  • The activities that are done in daily life can help and be physical activity, but they must be recurrent.
  • For all ages there are different types of physical activities, seek professional help and find out in depth.