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Increase in sitting prompts new physical activity push

November 29, 2020 2:45PM Reuters

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The World Health Organisation wants us to do more exercise to protect against the health risks of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. media_cameraThe World Health Organisation wants us to do more exercise to protect against the health risks of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.


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Children and teenagers should do an hour of exercise each day and limit time in front of electronic screens, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said in its first update to its physical activity guidelines in a decade.

The WHO also recommended all adults do at least 150 minutes of vigorous* physical activity a week, saying this was even more vital for wellbeing and mental health in the COVID-19 era.

It said exercise was needed to combat* our increasingly sedentary* lifestyles, which raise the risk of weight gain, disease and poor sleep. 

Pre-teen boy riding mountain bike with his sister and parents during a family camping trip, close up media_cameraA bike ride is a great way to get the recommended amount of physical activity.

Yet one in four adults and a “staggering” four out of five adolescents* did not get enough physical activity, which can include walking, cycling, gardening and cleaning, the WHO said.

“These guidelines emphasise* what many are experiencing during the COVID restrictions that are applied all over the world. And that is that being active every day is good, not only our bodies, but also our mental health,” said Fiona Bull, head of the WHO’s physical activity unit.

Ms Bull said research into the risks of sedentary behaviour had grown in the past decade, leading to the new advice and the launch of the WHO’s Every Move Counts campaign.

She said the advice was to “limit sedentary time and do more activity to offset sedentary time”, particularly for people who spend long hours sitting, such as office workers.

“For children we also recommend they limit sedentary time, particularly screen time,” Ms Bull said.

Boy Addicted To Video Gaming online At Home media_cameraThe World Health Organisation recommends limiting screen time for children.

The WHO defines* physical activity as any movement using the body’s muscles and energy.

Physical activity does not just mean playing sport. It can also include moving around for work, walking to school, active play, cycling and dancing, among other activities.

Moderate* to vigorous physical activity is movement that gets you puffing and your heart pumping.

The “talk test” is considered a good guide. As a general rule, if you are doing moderate activity, you will be able to talk but not sing during the activity.

If you are doing vigorous activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

Girl Kicks Ball Up Field media_cameraChildren need to get an average 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

The WHO guidelines state children and adolescents aged 5-17 years should:

  • do at least an average of 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, mostly aerobic*, across a week;
  • do vigorous aerobic activities at least three days a week plus those that strengthen muscles and bones;
  • limit the amount of time spent being sedentary, particularly the amount of recreational* screen time.
happy father looking at cheerful son and exercising with dumbbells media_cameraActivities that strengthen muscles and bones is recommended, along with aerobic exercises.

Physical activity improves a child’s fitness, mental and physical health and school performance, as well as reducing overweight and obesity.

Ms Bull said devices that tracked physical activity were helpful to encourage people to be and stay active.

“Monitoring how active you are is very good feedback,” she said. “That is important because we tend to think we might be more active. We tend to underestimate* how much time we spend sedentary.”


  • vigorous: high level, strong, energetic
  • combat: overcome
  • sedentary: time spent seated, inactive
  • adolescents: teenagers
  • emphasise: highlight
  • defines: describes
  • moderate: medium level
  • aerobic: activity that increases breathing and heart rate
  • recreational: done for fun and relaxation
  • underestimate: think something is smaller or less than it really is


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  1. How much daily exercise should children and teens do?
  2. How many minutes of vigorous physical activity should adults do each week?
  3. Which organisation is making these recommendations?
  4. What is happening to our lifestyles that makes exercise more important?
  5. What test is considered a good guide to a level of physical activity?


1. Assess your activity level
Work out if you are meeting the WHO’s recommended amount of weekly exercise:

  • Write down the days of the week
  • Think back over the last 7 days and write down all moderate to vigorous physical activity you remember doing on each day. This could include walking or riding to school, Physical Education class, sports training or matches, games or activities played with friends or family, completing chores, etc.
  • Next to each activity write a letter M for moderate or V for vigorous, and how many minutes you think you did the activity for (honesty is important here)
  • Add up your total minutes of moderate exercise, total minutes of vigorous exercise and overall total
  • Did you average at least 60 minutes of exercise per day? (Your overall total should be over 420 minutes if you have achieved this.)
  • Did you do vigorous exercise on at least 3 of the days?

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Mathematics

2. Extension
If you answered ‘no’ to either of the questions asked at the end of the above activity, create a plan for how you can achieve the goal of doing an average of 60 minutes exercise each day.

If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions – well done! Brainstorm a list of other “non-screen” activities you might also engage in during your spare time. (Your ideas don’t all need to be physically active activities.)

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

Grammar and VCOP
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences?

Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s.

Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

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