Changing the conversation about health
Register for Alerts

Short bursts of activity are beneficial to health, say updated guidelines

Partaking in just a few minutes of exercise can still benefit health, new guidelines in the UK state.

It was previously recommended that at least ten minutes of exercise was needed to have any positive impact on health. However, the latest research suggests that completing short, everyday tasks such as carrying shopping or gardening can bring benefits.

Updated guidelines from the chief medical office in the UK suggests that even just a few minutes of brisk exercise, such as carrying shopping bags home from the supermarket can benefit health

The UK chief medical officers suggested in the new guidelines that people should take at least 150 minutes of moderate to brisk exercise a week. Sedentary time should be kept to a minimum to maintain muscle strength, they also reported.

“Physical activity is an under-appreciated asset in our clinical arsenal. It is cheap and brings a long list of health benefits.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer

Dr Charlie Foster, chair of the CMO’s expert committee for physical activity, from the University of Bristol, explained: “We are emphasising the benefits of activity at all levels, ideally working towards this threshold.”

He added that staving off the natural decline of bone density and muscle mass that comes with age wasn’t focused on enough and “is much more important than we have probably thought”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, commented: “Physical activity is an under-appreciated asset in our clinical arsenal. It is cheap and brings a long list of health benefits.”

Dr Charlie Foster, chair of the CMO’s expert committee for physical activity, from the University of Bristol, said the importance of maintaining muscle mass and bone density has been underestimated

The report suggests older people could try gentle physical pursuits such as tai chi or lawn bowls to keep activity levels up and help improve co-ordination and balance.

Evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, Holly Holder, welcomed the updated advice.

She said: “It’s great to see these guidelines focusing on the importance of exercises which improve muscle strength and support good balance, which we know can have a huge impact on keeping us healthier for longer and reducing the risk of falls in later life.”