Top doctors release new guidance on how to stay fit and healthy

Date published: 07 September 2019

The UK’s leading doctors are recommending that people take up dancing, bowls or even activities like tai chi to help stave off injury and illness in old age.

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New guidance issued today emphasises the importance of building strength and balance for adults, as well as focusing on cardiovascular exercise. Falls are the number one reason older people are taken to A&E and could be avoided through daily activities ranging from brisk walking, carrying heavy shopping or climbing stairs, swimming and gardening.  

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland said: “The new guidance sets out clearly the benefits of being active and recommendations on how to achieve that at all stages of life.  Exercising regularly has not only proven benefits for physical health but the positive impact on mental health should not be underestimated. 

There is strong evidence that physical activity protects against a range of chronic conditions. Meeting the guidelines can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40%, coronary heart disease by 35% and depression by 30%.  I am therefore delighted to launch this guidance today.

The guidance advises on safe levels of activity for pregnant women or new mums, and the many benefits that this can bring, as long as they listen to their body and speak to their health professional.

Under the new guidelines, adults are advised to undertake strength-based exercise at least two days a week – which can help delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density that starts from around 50. It is believed that this is a central reason why older people lose their ability to carry out daily tasks.

The guidelines also include world-first recommendations for new mothers, advising that a moderate amount of exercise is proven to help them regain strength, ease back pain and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

The new guidelines are an update to those released in 2011, but the overall message remains the same: any activity is better than none, and more is better still.

Notes to editors: 

For media queries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 90520575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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