How Much Exercise Should You Do A Week – The Latest Physical Activity Guidelines

In September 2019, the Chief Medical Officers (CMO’s) in the UK released a report on the amount and type of physical activity people should be doing to improve their health. I’m here to break down the physical activity guidelines report for you and let you know how much exercise you should do in a week…

How Much Exercise Should You Do A Week - The Latest Physical Activity Guidelines

As much as I’m here for being active as a social activity or just as a way of having fun, I can’t ignore the fact that as a Fitness Professional, it’s my job to promote sport and exercise for it’s many health benefits.

This updated report from the CMO’s contains a whole heap of guidance for health professionals, policymakers and others working to promote physical activity, sport and exercise for health benefits. So I’m here to explain what is in the report and what that means for us, as regular human beings…

In the foreword of the report, the CMO’s reiterate what I think we all know; that physical activity is an important method of preventing illness. They also highlight how it brings people together to enjoy shared activities and contributes to building strong communities whilst supporting the economy to grow. I think that’s what I said, right?

“Regular physical activity provides a range of physical and mental health benefits. These include reducing the risk of disease, managing existing conditions, and developing and maintaining physical and mental function.”

These guidelines, present an update to the 2011 physical activity guidelines and were brought about due to new evidence. They cover the recommended activity levels across all age groups in addition to sharing guidance on being active during pregnancy and after giving birth, and for disabled adults.

What Are The Physical Activity Guidelines?

In this post, I won’t be covering activity guidelines for those under 18 as that is outside my professional scope. I am however qualified to work with the general population (aged 19 – 64) and I am also qualified in pre- and post-natal fitness.

Physical activity for adults and older adults: 19 and over

Adults Aged 19 to 64

  • Aim to be physically active every day.
  • Do activities to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. Muscle strengthening activities should be done on at least two days a week.
  • Each week, you should accumulate at least:
    • 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling);
    • or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (such as running);
    • or even shorter durations of very vigorous intensity activity (such as sprinting or stair climbing);
    • or a combination of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity.
  • Aim to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary, and when physically possible should break up long periods of inactivity with at least light physical activity.

Physical activity during pregnancy & during postpartum

The main thing to keep in mind when it comes to physical activity choices during pregnancy and postpartum is that they should reflect activity levels pre-pregnancy and should include strength training. Vigorous activity is not recommended for previously inactive women.

After the 6 to 8 week postnatal check, and depending on how the woman feels, more intense activities can gradually resume, i.e. building up intensity from moderate to vigorous over a minimum period of at least 3 months. If you’re unsure about how to exercise after having a baby, then you should check out the Fiit Mum Programme which is available through an app with workouts you can complete when and where is convenient for you and your schedule.

A moderate amount of exercise for new mothers is proven to help:

  • regain strength
  • ease back pain
  • reduce the risk of gestational diabetes


Physical activity during pregnancy & during postpartum

There is also a set of guidelines for Older Adults (aged 65+) which I won’t cover in this post.

Although these guidelines apply across the population, irrespective of gender, age or socio-economic status, there are lots of health inequalities in relation to physical inactivity which need to be taken into account when interpreting them.

For you though, think of these recommended activity levels as your goal to work towards. At the end of the day even small changes can make a big difference over time. And as they highlight in the report: some is good, more is better.

Workout Inspiration:

What has changed?

The previous guidelines recommended very similar things to be honest; the same 150 minutes od moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigourius intensity physical activity etc. Those guidelines though, suggested that you accumulated your exercise in bouts of 10 minutes of more whereas now, evidence suggests that these 150 minutes can in fact be accumulated in bouts of any length, and/or achieved in one or two sessions per week while still leading to health benefits.

The new research also suggests that health benefits may also be derived from lower volumes, intensities and frequencies of activity, particularly for individuals with low levels of physical fitness and for disabled adults. Further new evidence suggests that short duration, very vigorous exercise (at or close to all-out or maximal effort) at lower volumes than 75 minutes per week may bring equivalent health benefits to those derived from adherence to the previous guidelines, in a more time-efficient manner.

The evidence continues to suggest that at least twice a week, all adults should undertake activities which increase or maintain muscle strength (resistance training). The activities chosen should use major muscle groups in the upper and lower body. This can include activities such as using bodyweight, free weights, resistance machines or elastic bands, as well as activities of daily living such as stair climbing, wheeling your wheelchair, carrying shopping bags, lifting and carrying children, and gardening.

Summary of Physical Activity Guidelines

The latest physical activity guidelines released in late 2019, emphasises the importance of building strength and balance for adults, as well as focusing on cardiovascular exercise. There is also strong evidence that physical activity protects against a range of chronic conditions. Meeting the guidelines can reduce the risk of:

  • type 2 diabetes by 40%
  • coronary heart disease by 35%
  • depression by 30%

Although the new guidelines are an update to those released back in 2011, the overall message remains the same: any activity is better than none, and more is better still.

The strength based exercise (recommended at least 2 days a week) can help delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density that starts from around the age of 50. It is believed that this is a major reason why older people lose their ability to carry out daily tasks.

Are you meeting the weekly recommendations for exercise?!




  1. January 17, 2020 / 18:39

    I’m always wondering if I’m doing the right amount, so it’s really useful to see it all broken down. I’ll definitely try and make sure I’m doing the correct amount as it’s important for me to move after a long day sat at my desk! Thanks again for sharing your insight 🙂

    • Elle
      January 18, 2020 / 11:48

      You’re welcome Gemma! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment too. And I’m with you… those of us who spend a lot of time stirring down need to make a more conscious effort to move when we get the chance!

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