What are the recommended levels of physical activity to maintain and improve health?

The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination per week for physical and mental health benefits.  

Endurance Type Activity - Relative Intensity
Intensity VO2R* Percent HRR Percent HRmax RPE
Very light <20 <50 <10
Light 20-39 50-63 10-11
Moderate 40-59 64-76 12-13
Hard 60-84 77-93 14-16
Very Hard ≥85 ≥94 17-19
Maximal 100 100 20

In addition, the World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend engaging in at least two days of two sets of 8-12 repetitions each of muscle-strengthening exercises that target the major muscle groups, including legs, chest, back, shoulders, and arms.

Wait, what does that mean?

Adults should accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly, and engage in moderate-intensity muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days per week.  Moderate intensity for aerobic exercises, like walking, jogging, running, and cycling, normally causes you to breathe harder than normal but you are still able to talk, and feels like a medium amount of effort.  As you see in the table to the left, moderate-intensity ranges from 64%-76% of maximal heart rate, which can be estimated as 220 – your age.

Resistance-Type Exercise

Relative Intensity Percent 1RM

Very light <30
Light 30-49
Moderate  50-69
Hard 70-84
Very hard ≥85
Maximal 100

For resistance exercise, two sets of 8-12 repetitions should be completed on each exercise at an intensity that can only be completed for 8 to 12 repetitions with the correct technique/form.  Weight can also be selected based on a percentage of the maximal amount an individual can lift with the correct technique/form.  See the inset table to the left.  Follow the link below for some helpful information regarding resistance exercises to achieve recommendations.

How can I achieve the recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity?

An adult can achieve 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week by: 

  • walking at about 5 kilometres per hour (km/h) for 180 minutes (approximately 14.5 km)
  • walking faster at about 6.5 km/h for 120 minutes (approximately 13 km)
  • jogging or running at about 10km/h for about 60 minutes per week (approximately 10 km) 
  • On campus that means:
    • PESS Building to Pavilion (1.3km, 12mins) and back three days a week
    • Start at Foundation Building – past ERB building and Millstream – then over the Living Bridge – the path down past Thomond Student Village – over the University Bridge – through Dromroe Village,
    • Pass Ciaran’s Restaurant – over the footbridge and through car park – back to Foundation Building. (1.8kms, 18mins) four days a week
    • Start at Main University Building – down to Student Centre – along road down past Arena – down to the East Gate Entrance – turn right – walk along main road there – down to Main University Entrance – turn right into the entrance – walk along path – turn left at the roundabout – pass Schuman Building on your right – pedestrian crossing – turn right and walk straight back towards Main Building. (2.4kms, 25mins) three days a week

If you would like more information on physical activity recommendations, what opportunities for physical activity and exercise are available at UL, please email Dr Ian Sherwin at ian.sherwin@ul.ie