Physical activity

Physical activity

Everyone needs to be active and eat well to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It increases your quality of life and your sense of wellbeing.

Physical activity reduces your risk of a range of health conditions and helps you manage the ones you already have. It doesn’t have to be half an hour at the gym – physical activity includes:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • dancing
  • sport and recreation (structured and unstructured)
  • gardening
  • housework
  • active transport (eg, walking to the shops, cycling to work or school)
  • a physical job.

Remember: Even small increases in physical activity can improve your health. It’s never too early or late to start.

How much activity is recommended?

Be active every day, in as many ways as possible. Aim for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate (or 1 ¼ hour of vigorous physical activity) spread throughout the week.

Top 10 reasons to stay active

  1. You’ll be in better overall health.
  2. You’ll have more energy.
  3. You’ll have better posture and balance.
  4. You’ll have stronger muscles and bones.
  5. It’s fun.
  6. It raises your self-esteem.
  7. It helps you manage your weight.
  8. It improves your fitness.
  9. It can improve your sleep.
  10. You’ll feel more relaxed, and less stressed!

How much physical activity is needed?

Adults:

Do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate or 1 ¼ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week.

  • Moderate-intensity activity causes a slight, but noticeable, increase in breath and heart rate. You can still carry on a conversation.
  • The vigorous-intensity activity makes you out of breath – you can’t do these activities and chat at the same time.

For extra health benefits, aim for 5 hours of moderate or 2 ½ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week.

Do some muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Go to Types of activity for different activity ideas.

Older adults:

Do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on 5 days or more per week.

Try to add 3 sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and 2 sessions of muscle-strengthening activities per week. (Some of this can be combined, eg, hill walking may count towards aerobic and muscle-strengthening.)

Go to Physical activity for older people (aged 65 years and older) for more information.

Children and teenagers (5 to 17 years):

Do lots of physical activity

Do at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity spread over each day. Also, do a variety of light physical activities for several hours a day.

Include vigorous physical activity and activities that strengthen muscles and bone at least 3 days a week.

Don’t spend much time sitting

Spend no more than 2 hours a day on recreational screen time. Sit less, move more. Break up sitting time.

Get enough sleep

For 5 to 13-year-olds, get 9 to 11 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep each night.
For 14 to 17-year-olds, get 8 to 10 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep each night.
Have a regular bedtime and wake up time.

For greater health benefits

Trade indoor time for outdoor time.
Replace sitting time and light physical activity with more moderate or vigorous physical activity.
Go to:

  • Activities for children and young people for ideas on encouraging your kids to be active
  • Helping children sleep better and Helping teenagers sleep better for tips on sleep.
  • Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Young People

Children under 5

Encourage children under 5 to move every day.
Go to:

  • Activities for under-5s for ideas on encouraging your kids to be active
  • Helping young children sleep better for tips on sleep.

All ages

  • Sit less, move more! Break up long periods of sitting.
  • Doing some physical activity is better than none. Even small, sustained increases can improve health.

If you haven’t been active in the past, our page on Starting physical activity has tips to make it easier.

8 steps for staying active

  1. Set a goal – ever wanted to try a triathlon? With a little perseverance and some perspiration, you can get there. Make your goals measurable and achievable.
  2. Make a day of it – it’s easy to add activity through your weekend outings. How much better will that picnic taste once you’ve climbed that hill and got the view to match?
  3. Be active with others – rope in your friends and whānau and you can all have a great time. Adults versus kids cricket, anyone? Or see if there’s a sports team at work you could join.
  4. Try a range of activities – team sports not for you? Try releasing your energy with some kickboxing instead – or harness it with some relaxing yoga techniques.
  5. Have fun – if having to go to the gym at lunchtime gets you down, don’t forget there are other options. Go tramping, take a dance class – as long as you enjoy it, you can stick with it.
  6. Make some swaps – you could:
    • get out and doing some gardening or going for a walk, instead of turning on the TV
    • swap your coffee breaks at work with walking breaks
    • use a push mower instead of an electric mower (and impress the neighbors!)
  7. Make it normal – physical activity should be a normal part of your day and not a chore. Simple things, like walking or cycling to the shops or to work, can make a big difference.
  8. ‘Snack’ on activities – short periods of activity still count towards your weekly activity level. Even small things, like taking the stairs instead of the lift, add up!

Walk to wellbeing

Whatever your age, walking is an easy and low-cost option. Walk whenever you can.

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Leave the car at home.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier to walk the extra distance.
  • Walk to the train station.
  • Take your dog for a walk.
© RMI Ministry of Health and Human services

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