Guidelines for physical activity

As humans we move around a lot. To do this we are blessed with a great system for movement. It consists of our skeleton, brains, tendons and most importantly, muscles. If the system works right, it is great to move around. However, as humans we start moving less and less through the centuries. 

Although we are moving less and less, moving is still an essential part of our health. Most of us are probably aware of that, but do you also know how much movement you need to obtain the health benefit of movement?

This question about how much movement is needed is answered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) (1). They set up guidelines based on evidence with moderate certainty. The guidelines per week for healthy people aged 18 to 64 is as followed:

  • 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity
  • Or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity 
  • Or an equivalent combination.

The Dutch government also has guidelines for movement, but those only consist of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (2).  Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity are swimming, bicycling and hiking. 

Both guidelines also state that you should limit sedentary behaviour. The WHO guidelines also mention that adults should do activities for muscle-strengthening at least two times a week. These activities should be done at moderate or greater intensity and should involve all major muscle groups. Thereby, the guidelines also state that there is a need to start slow when someone is starting to move. Frequency, intensity and duration should all be gradually built up to reduce the risk of injuries. 

What are the health benefits of movement?
Movement has multiple health benefits for adults. Most important, it decreases all-cause mortality.* In addition, it also decreases cardiovascular disease mortality, incident site-specific cancers, incident hypertension and incident type-2 diabetes (1).

Other aspects of health are also positively influenced by movement. Moving around improves mental health. It especially helps with anxiety, depression symptoms, improving sleep quality, and not to forget, cognitive health (3).  So, make sure you move enough in preparation for exams!

Moving is something we should be more conscious about. It has an important influence on our overall health, both physical and mental. The guidelines of the WHO and the Dutch government tell us how much movement is needed, but also know that some physical activity is always better than none!



  1. WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO
  2. Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport. (2020, 23 oktober). Sport en gezondheid. Sport en bewegen | Geraadpleegd op 12 januari 2022, van
  3. Jiménez-Pavón, D., Carbonell-Baeza, A., & Lavie, C. J. (2020). Physical exercise as therapy to fight against the mental and physical consequences of COVID-19 quarantine: Special focus in older people. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 63(3), 386–388.