The New WHO Guidelines for Physical Activity

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched at the end of last year a manual of guidelines for the practice of physical activity for the entire population.

This Manual has not been modified for a decade and presents some significant new features. It gathered a lot of scientific evidence to compile guidelines for the health of the entire population.

Before going to a summary of some points of change, let’s clarify concepts that are simple to understand.


A. Physical Exercise Vs Physical Activity

The two concepts sound the same, but they are not. Physical activity is associated with movement.

So, all day-to-day activities are physical activities, such as walking, running to reach the metro, climbing stairs, carrying shopping. That is, all movements that involve muscle activation or caloric expenditure are physical activity.

The concept of Physical Exercise already refers to a programmed and organized practice, associated with the pursuit of a certain objective.

This goal can be health, the more aesthetic issues of weight control for example, or even improving performance.

Physical exercise always includes physical activity, but physical activity is not always physical exercise.

B. Sedentary lifestyle and inactivity

In this theme, the new manual introduces the concept of sedentary behavior, which says that even though we are active, we must avoid the hours of the day when we remain still: sitting, lying down,…

The collected studies indicate that even those who exercise, face harmful health, due to periods of inactivity.

In addition to all the scientific evidence, collected in the past 10 years, this manual also provides updated information on the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle for the health of the population.

What’s New in This 2020 Physical Activity Recommendation Manual?

  1. Emphasizes the importance of Physical Activity in General, and not only of Physical Exercise.
  2. It considerably increases the volume of Physical Activity per week, also changing the recommendations regarding the intensity of this effort.
  3. It reinforces the harmful effects of inactivity and inactivity. Values ​​the importance of the intensity of the practice of Physical Activity for all populations, without excluding this time, the importance also for Special Populations.
  4. It reiterates the importance of Strength Training and not just Cardiovascular Training and also introduces balance activities.


The new recommendations then refer to unorganized practice – Physical Activity. For example, walking pets or parking the car further away, getting off at an earlier stop, loading up your shopping.

It should be noted that there is an important highlight of the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle, which was previously not reinforced.

This manual reinforces the fact that every movement counts, especially in this phase in which we are experiencing the COVID-19 tragedy that reduced both all types of movement, and all physical and health “centers” are closed.

Introduces solutions for physical inactivity, recommended to everyone, children, young adults and the elderly, and pregnant and postpartum women. Virtually the same recommendations.

These groups include any type of special population. That is, no one is excluded from doing the physical activity recommended by the manual.

It is really important to draw from here, that WHO recognizes only the benefits, of being active, even for people with chronic illnesses or any type of disability.

The recommendation is organized into groups, reinforcement, without excluding chronic patients or disability, by:

  1. Children and adolescents (5 to 17 years)
  2. Adults (18 to 65 years)
  3. Elderly (over 65 years)
  4. Pregnant or postpartum women

Briefly, the following recommendations are listed for each of these population groups: Note: the recommendations refer to recommendations per week.

Children and adolescents (5 to 17 years)

  • At least 60 minutes daily physical activity, on average, with moderate to vigorous intensity
  • At least 3 days a week, incorporate activities that strengthen muscles and bones
  • Conditions for those with disabilities: start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration.
  • Consult a health professional specializing in the condition is recommended before starting the practice.

Adults (18 to 65 years)

  • At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity,
  • or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Or, still, an equivalent combination between these intensities.
  • This time can be longer, to have additional benefits.
  • At least 2 days a week, do strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups at moderate or high intensity.
  • Conditions for those who have chronic illnesses or some “disability”: should start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration.
  • Consult a health professional specializing in the condition is recommended before starting the practice.

Elderly (over 65 years)

  • The elderly should be as physically active as their functional capacity allows.
  • If they are doing well, the recommendation should be equivalent to that of the adult group.
  • At least 3 days a week, perform diversified physical activities, which emphasize functional balance, and strength training.

Pregnant or postpartum women

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly.
  • Include a variety of aerobic and muscle-building practices.
  • Add stretches.
  • Start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration.
  • Women who, before pregnancy, were used to intense activity, or were physically active, can continue to maintain their practice, adjusting according to the guidance of a professional.

“Being physically active can add years to life and life to years,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO. What more striking phrase do you find?

I withdraw saying that the training of everyone on Good Surf Good Love all year Program & online training is in accordance with these recommendations, but they are not enough, even so. In the remaining 4 days of the week, children and adults should practice more intense to moderate physical activity!

Good training and lots of health!