The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has said that "even a few minutes of exercise is good for you" – hoping that the simple message will encourage people to get more active.
The new CMO guidance – published today (7 September) – states that any amount of physical activity is beneficial, overturning previous recommendations that physical activity needed to last at least 10 minutes to bring benefits.
The new guidelines are an update to those released in 2011 and, for the first time, include tailored advice for pregnant women, new mums and disabled adults.
There is also a recommendation for all over-65s to take up dancing, bowls or activities like tai chi in order to help stave off injury and illness in old age.
With the topline advice of “some is good, more is better”, 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.
To encourage good development in babies and children, the new guidelines recommend lots of “tummy time”. As much active play as possible in children under five is also encouraged, and older children are recommended to be active for an average of 60 minutes a day, across the week.
The new, simpler guideline of "any exercise is good for you" has been welcomed by the physical activity sector.
"These simple guidelines may be the first step towards not only a more active nation, but also a stronger one," said ukactive CEO Huw Edwards.
“In previous iterations of the CMO’s guidelines, the focus has been on the importance of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, with the importance of muscle strength and activities to promote it playing second fiddle.
“The latest guidelines are more reflective of the evidence and the importance of activities such as resistance training for all adults, reflecting their equal positioning alongside the aerobic activity recommendations."
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said the guidelines look to highlight how physical activity is an under-appreciated asset in the "clinical arsenal" available to everyone.
"Exercise is cheap and brings a long list of health benefits," Dame Sally said.
"As we age, our muscles weaken and we can become stiff, leading to falls and difficulty performing everyday activities.
"Physical activity can prevent fragility and support mobility in old age. By keeping active, both throughout the day and also through hobbies, we can slow muscle and bone decline, ultimately keeping us independent for longer."