December 5, 2021

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New WHO Physical Activity Guidelines Prioritize Low-Impact

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Thumbnail for The WHO Just Updated Its Physical Activity Guidelines for the First Time in a Decade—And This Low-Intensity Exercise Is All You Need

In our wellness trend predictions for 2020, we declared that bite-size workouts sprinkled throughout the day would replace “go hard or go home”-style exercise. Nearly 12 months later, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed as much with its first physical activity guidelines update in a decade. And it’s time to prioritize 10-minute dance videos and walks with friends.

The WHO’s 2020 guidelines have completely revamped the organization’s previous workout recs. While the targeted range of exercise used to be at least 150 min of moderate-intensity (like yoga) or 75 min of vigorous-intensity activity per week (like running), the updated version specifies that adults should have both 150 to 300 min of moderate-intensity and 75 to 150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. At first blush, that may sound like more exercise—but the WHO’s definition of “working out” has also expanded to encompass even the tiniest of movement. That’s good news for your health.

Below, you’ll find five low-intensity workouts that the WHO greenlighted for squeezing in those 225 minutes (that’s just under four hours) of workouts a week.

5 workouts that fulfill the WHO physical activity guidelines

1. Chair stretches and exercises



“In the case of those living with disability, especially wheelchair users or those with low mobility, it is important to note that it is possible to avoid sedentary behaviour while sitting or lying by doing light-intensity or high-intensity activities that do not involve the lower extremities,” writes the WHO. Chair yoga, for example, is a great opportunity to unwind the muscles in your upper body without needing having to stand up to do so.

2. Leisurely walks

Consider the 10-minute break between your 2 and 3 o’clock meetings go-time for a quick loop around the block. To make every step count even more, try these tips for getting a glute workout on your stroll.

3. Balance exercises



The WHO recommends adults 65-years-old and above practice their balance to reduce your odds of falling. Yoga teacher-slash-physical therapist Lara Heimann, PT previously told Well+Good that she recommends practicing by standing on one foot while you’re brushing your teeth or enduring a long Zoom meeting. Over time, you’ll be a pro (and you can count these minutes toward that moderate exercise goal).

4. Functional strength training



The new WHO guidelines place an emphasis on functional strength training, specifically for older adults. That means strengthening the muscles during exercise that you’ll need to perform everyday movements later on in life. That’s right: squats, lunges, and other essential strength training moves are like an insurance plan for good health.


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