Physical activity

Physical activity can help people live longer, healthier lives. The New Zealand Physical Activity Guidelines outline the minimum levels of physical activity required to gain health benefits and ways to incorporate incidental physical activity into everyday life.

Adults

New Zealand adults should:

  • view movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.
  • be active every day in as many ways as possible.
  • put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most if not all days of the week.
  • if possible, add some vigorous exercise for extra health benefit and fitness.

Adult guidelines for physical activity were developed by the Hillary Commission (now Sport New Zealand) in consultation with the Ministry of Health in 2001.

Movement = Health is aimed at health professionals and includes ways to promote the guidelines.

Children and young people (5–18 years)

Children and young people should:

  • throughout each day, do sixty minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity
  • be active in as many ways as possible, for example, through play, cultural activities, dance, sport, recreation, jobs and going from place to place
  • be active with friends and whānau, at home, school and in their communities
  • spend less than two hours a day (out of school hours) in front of the television, computers, and game consoles.

New Zealand physical activity guidelines for children and young people (aged 5–18 years) were developed by Sport New Zealand and the Ministries of Health and Education in 2007.

Children under 5 years

There are no specific guidelines for children under 5 years old but movement is important from birth. Active movement is encouraged for healthy development – children learn from movement and physical activity. For more information see Activities for young people in the YourHealth section.

Older people

The following recommendations apply to all older people in New Zealand, but should be adjusted for each older person according to their individual needs and abilities:

  • be as physically active as possible and limit sedentary behaviour
  • consult an appropriate health practitioner before starting or increasing physical activity
  • start off slowly and build up to the recommended daily physical activity levels
  • aim to do aerobic activity on five days per week for at least 30 minutes if the activity is of moderate intensity; or for 15 minutes if it is of vigorous intensity; or a mixture of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • aim to do three sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities per week.

The following recommendations apply to older people in New Zealand who are frail in place of the recommendations given above. Older people who are frail should:

  • be as physically active as possible and limit sedentary behaviour
  • consult an appropriate health practitioner before starting or increasing physical activity
  • start off slowly and build up to the recommended physical activity levels
  • aim for a mixture of low impact aerobic, resistance, balance and flexibility activities
  • discuss with their doctor about whether vitamin D tablets would benefit the older person.

In this section

  • A Green Prescription (GRx) is a health professional’s written advice to a patient to be physically active, as part of the patient’s health management. This section describes how GRx works and provides research and other useful resources. Read more
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