The Ministry of Health sets the recommended activity guidelines in New Zealand – based on research and recommendations in other countries like Australia, the United States and United Kingdom. The current recommendations for adults were revised in 2014 and can be summed up in five key activity statements:
- Sit less, move more! Break up long periods of sitting.
- Do at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate or 1¼ hours (75 minutes) of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week.
- Aim for 5 hours of moderate or 2 ½ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week for extra health benefits.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
- Doing some physical activity is better than doing none.
Active Canterbury recommends that you talk with your doctor or practice nurse if you are pregnant, have a medical condition or other health concerns and want to be more active.
Older adults should do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on 5 days or more each week, as well as trying to add 3 sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and 2 sessions of muscle-strengthening activities each week. Some of this can be combined such as hill walking can count towards aerobic and muscle-strengthening.
Children and young people should be kept busy with at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day, as well a range of light physical activities for several hours a day. Some vigorous activities that strengthen muscles and bones should be included at least 3 days each week.
Children under 5 should be encouraged to move every day.
Activity intensity is how hard your body is working when being physically active. The talk test is a simple way to measure relative intensity. You can talk (but not sing) during moderate-intensity activities, but you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath if you're doing vigorous-intensity activity.
- Light intensity includes common daily activities that take little effort but contribute to total daily energy expenditure.
- Moderate intensity activity will cause a slight, but noticeable, increase in breath and heart rate. Examples include brisk walking, swimming or aqua aerobics, cycling, gardening and household chores such as vacuuming.
- Vigorous intensity activity will get you puffed. Examples include running or jogging, some team sports, and walking uphill.
Aim to add some vigorous or “huff and puff” activities into your day on a regular basis.
New research suggests strength building activities may be just as important as aerobic activities like jogging and cycling. A strength exercise is any activity that makes your muscles work harder than usual. This increases your muscles' strength, size, power and endurance. Examples include lifting weights, climbing stairs or hill walking, running or walking and garden work.
Strength and flexibility activities also help to improve posture and balance, and so can help prevent falls particularly for older people. Examples of balance activities include bowls or petanque, golf, tai chi, dancing, group exercise classes and yoga.
Weight-bearing and resistance activities are also vital for promoting and maintaining bone health. Studies show that strength training over a period of time can help prevent bone loss - and may even help build new bone.
Find out about other ways you can improve your strength and flexibility (National Health Service UK).