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.

On this page:


Adults

You can find our Guideline Statements for adults at the Eating and Activity Guidelines.

Children and young people (5–17 years)

‘Sit less, move more, sleep well’

For school-aged children and young people (aged 5 to 17 years) high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour, and sufficient sleep each day achieves greater health benefits.

A healthy 24-hours includes:

  • quality uninterrupted sleep of 9 to 11 hours per night for those aged 5 to 13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14 to 17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times
  • an accumulation of at least 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (incorporate vigorous physical activities and activities that strengthen muscles and bones, at least 3 days a week)
  • no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time
  • for the remainder of the day:
    • sitting less and moving more – break up sitting time
    • participating in structured and unstructured light physical activities.

Preserving sleep, trading indoor time for outdoor time, and replacing sedentary behaviours and light physical activity with additional moderate to vigorous physical activity can provide greater health benefits.

For more information on these recommendations, download:

These guidelines are adapted from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth (aged 5–17 years), with permission.

Children under 5 years

Regular active play, limited sitting and enough good-quality sleep are important for a child’s healthy growth and development.

You can find our guidelines for children under 5 years at Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active play guidelines for under-5s.

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 5 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 3 sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and 2 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.

Go to Guidelines on Physical Activity for Older People (aged 65 years and over) for more information.

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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