Get off your butts: Dutch health council says people need to move around more

For the first time ever, the Health Council of the Netherlands warned against the consequences of sitting still for long periods of time in its new Movement Guidelines. The general gist of the guidelines is: moving is good, moving more is better, the council wrote in the report.

"In adults and older persons, physical activity reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depressive symptoms," the report states. "Among older people, physical activity reduces the risk of bone fractures and improves muscle strength and walking speed. Higher levels of physical activity in this group are also associated with a lower risk of physical constraints, cognitive decline and dementia."

The new guidelines recommend that adults and the elderly do muscle- and bone-enhancing activities, like hiking and martial arts, at least twice a week. Elderly people should also do balance exercises, according to the Health Council, which is an advisory body for the government.

In general, adults should move intensively for at least 2.5 hours a week. This can include cycling and walking. Those who already do so, can achieve greater health benefits by moving more and for longer, the Council adds. More and more scientific studies show that people who sit still too often and move too little are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and an early death.

The advisory also points out the benefits of fitness and exercise for kids. "In children, physical activity also lowers the risk of depressive symptoms, improves insulin sensitivity and bone quality, and reduces body mass index and fat mass in children who are overweight or obese."

The Health Council has four levels of movement - sitting still, light movement like small household tasks, moderate movement like walking and cycling and heavy movement like running. 

According to figures from the public health institute RIVM, only 44 percent of adults in the Netherlands achieve 2.5 hours of intensive movement per week.