Physical activity guidelines for adults

How much physical activity do adults aged 19-64 years old need to do to stay healthy?

To stay healthy or to improve health, adults need to do two types of physical activity each week: aerobic and strength exercises.

How much physical activity you need to do each week depends on your age. Click on the links below for the recommendations for other age groups:

Guidelines for adults aged 19-64

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and  
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). 

  • A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week. For example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  

A rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.  

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days a week. 

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity. Find out why sitting is bad for your health.

What counts as moderate aerobic activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:

  • walking fast
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • volleyball
  • basketball 

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.

Back to top

What counts as vigorous activity?

There is good evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity.

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most people include:

Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate activity.

For a moderate to vigorous workout, try Couch to 5K, a nine-week running plan for beginners.

Back to top

What activities strengthen muscles?

Muscle strength is necessary for:

  • all daily movement
  • to build and maintain strong bones
  • to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure
  • to help maintain a healthy weight

Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like a bicep curl or a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions.

For each strength exercise, try to do:

  • at least one set
  • eight to 12 repetitions in each set 

To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you struggle to complete another repetition.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • yoga

Try Strength and Flex, a 5-week exercise plan for beginners to improve your strength and flexibility.

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same day or on different days as your aerobic activity - whatever's best for you.

Muscle-strengthening exercises are not an aerobic activity, so you'll need to do them in addition to your 150 minutes of aerobic activity.

Some vigorous activities count as both an aerobic activity and a muscle-strengthening activity.

Examples include:

  • circuit training
  • aerobics
  • running
  • football
  • rugby
  • netball
  • hockey

Back to top

Download a factsheet on physical activity guidelines for adults (19-64 years) (PDF, 568kb)

Page last reviewed: 11/07/2015

Next review due: 11/07/2017


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 511 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 11 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Cajunkate said on 13 June 2015

The emphasis on aerobic activity ignores all the evidence about the advantages of lifting heavy weights. :( Lifting weights doesn't just build muscles - it has all sorts of other benefits too. See the work from Harvard University recounted in books such as 'Strong Women Stay Young' by Miriam Nelson and Sarah Wernick. I don't do any vigorous aerobic exercise at all, but I lift heavy weights twice a week - my squat is now over 95kg and my deadlift over 100kg. At age 68 I would pit myself against women fifteen years younger than myself on any fitness measures you care to mention.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Steering P31 said on 12 October 2014

I had been a high powered international corporate lawyer interested always in efficiency and result.

The best simplest, effective exercise one can have is to do your own housework. Walk to grocery shop, carry heavy bags to walk home, cooking, laundry, emptying rubbish, filing emptying dishwasher, tidying up etc, and most of all, vacuuming at least once a week, keep one's weight down, help one stay nibble, strong, and confident.

For years I've had full time household help and I saw the maid (same age as me -58) getting healthier while I gained weight and felt physically lethargic. Even though I can well afford cleaner, cook etc, I now take over all the "dirty, inconvenient" house chores which nature gives us to do as a tool for balance and health.

Also. running up and down stairs cleaning up doing chores is the "icing on cake".

Gym, trainer and all is fine, but looking after oneself in all its associated tasks is natural, better economics, and very empowering.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Hunnyb22 said on 21 June 2014

Since I received my bus pass (I'm a 62 year old female) I had become lazier and put on the pounds, catching the bus to go short distances instead of walking. However, I got a shock when I stepped on the scales and realised how much weight I had put on, plus my cholesterol was high. So, recently I started walking every day, ate sensibly and bought an air walker, within two weeks I lost 2Kg. I still have a fair way to go but will be happy to lose at least four more Kgs.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

rinnin said on 26 September 2013

Whats the advice for exercise if you;re over 65?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jholt1 said on 31 January 2013

If you are wondering how you can fit exercise in your busy schedule. Here are a few tips:

Park further away from your work place. Park a mile away you get at least two miles of walking a day

Find the nearest gym to workplace and exercise before or after work (or in your lunchtime)

Cycle to work

Stop using the elevator

Do small quick exercises in your office (google desk exercises)

Communicate with your fellow workers and see what they do.

Ask your boss if there are any employee fitness programs.

If you have children, exercise with them.

Get a dog, you will be forced to take it on a walk.

Go to a gym and talk to a personal trainer and see what they can do about your busy schedule.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Suz8673 said on 03 January 2013

And another thing....

I'd like to be able to do more aerobics, but I can't go out until 7.30pm due to child care needs. But guess what, most aerobics classes start at 7pm. Or 6. Or 7.30. Which is useless for me. I've only found one class in my area which starts at 8pm (which I go to). But tbh, I don't understand with these guidelines whether even if I did aerobics twice a week that would be enough.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Suz8673 said on 02 January 2013

I just think this is way too complicated and seems impossible to achieve. What is the difference between strengthening and vigorous intensity etc? How do you fit in a game of tennis when you work full time, look after kids all weekend and, er, don't like tennis/don't have a tennis racquet/no one to play with?

I used to understand the 30mins of activity a day message and it felt achievable. Is there evidence that that level of activity brings no benefit? Surely it's better than nothing?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

AManCalledDada said on 29 July 2012

You forgot one: sex.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Sarea said on 22 May 2012

All well and good (and I try to stay as active as I can) but what do you recommend for someone with a 14-hour work day, and weekend commitments centred around indoor activities?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

ecosphere said on 27 February 2012

Unfortunately, you're right - motivation is surely one of the best weapons in fighting the flab and Mr. Surfer does nothing to help us on that score. However, if you want images of a real person trying to lose weight and keep healthy, I'm available for a photo shoot any time.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

sidmcvicious said on 25 January 2012

That's great and everything, but why is there is a picture of a guy half naked on a surf board in the sea, a sea which is clearly not anywhere around this country. I think if we all lived in that country as opposed to this one, we wouldn't be scouting about this website looking for ideas to get our fat miserable backsides off the sofa, no we'd be at the beach, loving life, exercising without even thinking about it. Ultimately, that picture is unachievable and therefore not inspirational. It's made me want to microwave a bag of buttery popcorn and sit down on my fat backside to watch Point Break.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

What's your sport?

Find out which sport you're best suited to with this short psychological and aptitude test

Find your sport

Your NHS Health Check

Millions of people have already had their free "midlife MOT". Find out why this health check-up is so important

Get running with Couch to 5K

Our C25K plan is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks

Strength and Flex

Download our Strength and flexibility podcast series and get a free personal trainer

5K+ running podcasts for C25K graduates

Take your running to the next level with new podcasts for Couch to 5K graduates

Losing weight - Getting started

Develop healthier eating habits, be more active and get on track to start losing weight with our 12-week weight loss guide.

Weight loss pack

Get active your way

Ideas for busy mums and dads, families, young people, office workers and older adults to build activity into their life

Health and fitness

Boost your health and fitness with fun and practical ideas to get active and improve your general health

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you