Physical activity in childhood and youth

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Working children's motor coordination and sense of rhythm is essential during the preschool stage (ages two to five) to develop the organism's agility and flexibility.

  • Light physical activity. Standing, moving, walking, and playing a game that is not very energetic.
  • Vigorous physical activity. For children who can walk, vigorous physical activity includes active play, running, jumping, cycling, dancing, swimming and climbing, among others.

In childhood, daily physical activity is needed around twice as much as adults.

Minors and adolescents (5 to 17 years old) should carry out at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activities every day. And more than 60 minutes daily provides a greater benefit for health.

Aerobic physical activities are recommended (cycling, swimming, dancing, playing tennis, soccer, volleyball, etc.) as well as incorporating vigorous activities that strengthen the muscles and bones at least three times a week. Namely, strength work. Examples of exercises for strengthening muscles include:


Weight training (supervised by professionals).

Person exercising with elastic bands

Exercising with elastic bands.

Person doing push-ups

Exercises that use the body for resistance (planks, push-ups, etc.).

Woman seated in Yoga position

Yoga or aqua gym.

Physical activity in adults

Adults aged between 18 and 65 should do 2,5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, which can be increased to up to 5 hours, or 1,15-2,5 hours of vigorous activity, or a combination of both in periods of at least 10 minutes, and should also do strength exercises at least twice a week.

This will improve cardiorespiratory and muscle functions and bone health and reduce the risk of depression.

Physical activity in elderly people

People over 65 are advised to do the following types of activities in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscle functions and bone health as well as reduce the risk of depression.

Person playing petanque

Recreational or leisure activities. Like walking in the park, playing boules,...

Person walking in the mountains

Outside activities like walking, cycling or swimming. 

Person doing housework in the living room

Housework like sweeping, cooking, or playing with children with games that can be done without risk of falling.

Person doing aquagym

Programmed sports or exercises to strengthen muscles and improve balance performed by the physical therapist with a recommended daily dedication of 20 minutes.

Woman seated in Yoga position

Doing yoga and other similar disciplines is a highly recommended exercise to keep muscles strong, maintain flexibility of the joints, balance, in general, and to reduce the risk of falling.

On this basis, this age group should do 2,5 hours of physical activity per week in sessions of 10 and 30 minutes and leave a day of rest in between, always taking into account the physical shape of the person.

Regarding those with some type of disease, it is recommended to consult the health team beforehand if you can do any physical activity.

Physical activity in pregnancy, postpartum and lactation


Being active is essential for pregnant women, as long as they do not have another underlying disease or a complicated pregnancy. Exercising during pregnancy means they are more likely to have a better delivery and postpartum.

Walking at least 2,5 hours per week and carrying out physical exercise adapted to each stage of pregnancy is recommended. Remember that the first trimester of pregnancy is very different from the third. Certain activities can be done throughout the pregnancy, such as water exercises, walking, or using the exercise bike.

However, the fact that the uterus is increasing in size and weight must be considered, which is why jogging until the second trimester of pregnancy is acceptable but should be replaced with walking in the third.

Strength exercises can also be done, but in this case supervision by qualified personnel is recommended.


The mother should continue to be active during postpartum by going for a walk with the baby for example, or doing physical activity in the water.


One of the recommendations when breastfeeding is to do physical activity after breastfeeding the baby to avoid discomfort.

Particular attention should be paid to the pelvic floor area. Hypopressive abdominal exercises or pilates are valid options, after consultation with a specialised professional, physical therapist or midwife.

Asking a professional for advice to establish which are the most suitable exercises is essential, since each woman is different and will be able to continue with her usual routine or will have to adapt it according to the activity routine she had before.


Information referenced on the web pages of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Substantiated information by:

David Domínguez
Eva Ferrer
Gil Rodas

Published: 14 April 2020
Updated: 14 April 2020


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