Physical activity can be of low-, moderate- and vigorous-intensity. Heart rate can be used to assess the intensity of physical activity — the higher the heart rate during physical activity, the higher the intensity. Moderate-intensity physical activity means you are working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. According to the American Heart Association, moderate-intensity activity should increase your heart rate by 50 percent to about 70 percent. If your physical activity is at a moderate level: your breathing quickens but you are not out of breath; you develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity; and you can carry on a conversation, but you cannot sing. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, cycling at a moderate pace, skipping rope, playing doubles tennis, and mountain-climbing. Vigorous-intensity activity means you will be breathing harder and faster, and your heart rate will increase significantly. According to the American Heart Association, vigorous-intensity activity should raise your heart rate by 70% to 85%. If your physical activity is at a vigorous level, your breathing is deep and rapid, you develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity, and you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include hiking, brisk jogging, brisk cycling, playing basketball, football, and singles tennis. In addition, low-intensity physical activity (e.g., casual walking, doing chores around the house, cooking, washing dishes) can bring some benefits to our lives. Any form of physical activity can provide some health benefits if they are undertaken regularly and of sufficient duration and intensity.

How much physical activity do we need to do every day? According to the WHO’s Physical Activity Guidelines, adults aged 18 or above should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. An alternative recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. For children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years, one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is recommended. WHO has also offered different physical activity guidelines for children under 5 years of age, pregnant and postpartum women, people living with chronic conditions, and children, adolescents and adults living with a disability. Depending on your physical ability and fitness, you can participate in any physical activity that suits you and helps you feel better and live better. To find the right physical activity for you, do what you enjoy, do a variety of activities of your choice, and build a habit of doing them regularly. Physical activity, exercise or sports with family and friends can be more enjoyable, and it can help you to stay healthy and have a great time!

Given the established benefits of regular physical activity in improving our health and wellbeing, it needs to be included in our daily lives, and we should take every opportunity to be physically active. If we do not start it today, then when? Let us begin our journey to get active today – let us make this our World Physical Activity Day pledge. Let us move more, sit less and be active to stay healthy and well.

[Dr Asaduzzaman Khan is Associate Professor, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; and Chair of Active Healthy Kids Bangladesh.]


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