WHO under rates level of exercise needed.


We all know exercise is important. It’s not just good for our waistline but health benefits abound, it’s good for your heart, your brain and your general emotional health. But how much is the right amount? And does it make much difference if you do a bit or a lot?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week of activity. To put that in perspective, we’re talking about 150 minutes of walking per week or 75 minutes of running.  But those 600 MET can be achieved across a broad spectrum of activity; it doesn’t just have to come from running on a treadmill. Day to day physical activity like vacuuming the lounge room or doing the gardening also counts towards the total.

But in a new study it seems WHO have got it wrong…

The researchers from the University of Washington looked at how much the risk of disease decreases with an increase in physical activity. And what they found was surprising. In fact what they found was that it’s five times more than WHO recommends in order to lower the risk of disease.

But how much more exactly?

About 3,000 to 4000 MET minutes per week.

The lead author, Assistant Professor Hmwe Kyu from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington had this to say,

“Major gains occurred at lower levels of activity. The decrease in risk was minimal at levels higher than 3,000 to 4,000 Met minutes per week.”

That’s a significant increase from the current model. But it’s not that difficult to accomplish.


“A person can achieve 3,000 Met minutes per week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine – for example, climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation for 25 minutes, on a daily basis, would together achieve about 3,000 Met minutes a week,” says Kyu

The conclusion of the study showed that higher levels of physical activity were shown to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And that’s an important finding not just for young people wanting to maintain a healthy life but also for older people who are more at risk of these later onset diseases.

The study notes:

“With population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required.”

Sadly it may be time to let the gardener go and tell the cleaner you’re talking care of the scrubbing the bathroom yourself. And then go grab your sneakers and go for a long walk. Because now it’s official, you’ve got a few thousand extra MET’s to take care of.


[1] Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. BMJ 2016; 354 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3857 (Published 09 August 2016) BMJ 2016;354:i3857