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Background The objective of this study was to derive evidence-based physical activity guidelines for the general Dutch population. Methods Two systematic reviews were conducted of English language meta-analyses in PubMed summarizing separately randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies on the relation between physical activity and sedentary behaviour on the one hand and the risk of all-cause mortality and incidence of 15 major chronic diseases and conditions on the other hand. Other outcome measures were risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, physical functioning, and fitness. On the basis of these reviews, an expert committee derived physical activity guidelines. In deriving the guidelines, the committee first selected only experimental and observational prospective findings with a strong level of evidence and then integrated both lines of evidence. Results The evidence found for beneficial effects on a large number of the outcome measures was sufficiently strong to draw up guidelines to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour, respectively. At the same time, the current evidence did not provide a sufficient basis for quantifying how much physical activity is minimally needed to achieve beneficial health effects, or at what amount sedentary behaviour becomes detrimental. A general tenet was that at every level of current activity, further increases in physical activity provide additional health benefits, with relatively larger effects among those who are currently not active or active only at light intensity. Three specific guidelines on (1) moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity, (2) bone- and muscle-strengthening activities, and (3) sedentary behaviour were formulated separately for adults and children. Conclusions There is an unabated need for evidence-based physical activity guidelines that can guide public health policies. Research in which physical activity is measured both objectively (quantity) and subjectively (type and quality) is needed to provide better estimates of the type and actual amount of physical activity required for health.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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