We asked our SCPN team and friends what they thought was the most interesting paper that had come across their desks this year. SCPN friend Professor Nanette Mutrie, Director of the Physical Activity for Health Research Group, University of Edinburgh, has nominated the revised Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines as her report of the year and here is why…

UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines

Department of Health and Social Care


Why this paper?

In 2019 the Chief Medical Officers of the UK published revised guidance from their 2011 version on physical activity for health. The revisions were based on evidence reviews completed by experts and are relevant to SCPN followers for several reasons:

First the WCRF have consistently supported the role of physical activity in cancer prevention. There is no evidence to suggest that cancer prevention requires different guidelines for physical activity than those issues by CMOs. Secondly, the evidence for the health benefits of being regularly active has grown and the number of cancers now included in the list of diseases that PA can help prevent has risen from 2 in 2011 to 8 in 2018 [see Figure 1] . Thirdly the revisions can help the practical world of promoting for health and for cancer prevention.

Here are main revisions for adult populations:

  1. The need for activity to be accumulated in 10 minute bouts has gone –the epidemiology now supports that every step and every minute counts. The new guidelines therefore emphasise the benefits of all physical activity, summed up by the phrase ‘Some is good, more is better’.
  2. The new guidelines place greater emphasis on the importance of regular muscle strengthening activities for all age groups, and to the additional benefits of balance and flexibility exercises particularly for older adults.
  3. For the first time, the Physical Activity Guidelines now presents additional guidance on being active during pregnancy, and after giving birth, and for disabled adults.
Figure 1: Cumulative health benefits of physical activity across ages.