Everything About the New HPB Guidelines on Physical Activities for S’poreans

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On Sunday (12 June), Sport Singapore and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) released a revise set of Singapore Physical Activity Guideline, which strives to encourage people to do a variety of activities and exercises and be less sedentary.

After consulting experts from medical and health fields, the guidelines hope to encourage Singaporeans to strengthen their aerobatic fitness, muscular strength, bone strength, flexibility, and balance— all of which can go a long way in promoting a healthy body and lifestyle.

The criteria aren’t overly demanding either; some of the suggestions given are just small things, like taking some time to collect or grab your food instead of having it delivered to your house.

Taking the stairs rather than the lift. Ensuring that you have exercised at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week, like going on strolls or attending Zumba classes.

Small actions that can have long-term effects when gradually accumulated.

The Physical Activity Guidelines

The Physical Activity Guidelines are separated into different age categories, then conditions or disabilities.

For Toddlers Aged 0 to 2

  • Engage in imaginative play and storytelling activities
  • Recreational screen time is not recommended
  • Interactive floor-based activities for 30 minutes at least
  • 180 minutes of physical activity spread throughout the day, plus outdoor play
  • Quality sleep for 14 to 17 hours

For Children Aged 3 to 6

  • Try to stay active constantly
  • No more than one hour of recreational screen time (good luck enforcing that)
  • 180 minutes of physical activity throughout the day.
  • 60 minutes should be moderate to vigorous in intensity.
  • Quality sleep for 9 to 13 hours

For Youngsters Aged 7 to 17

  • Average of 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobatic activity
  • Have vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, and muscle and bone strengthening exercises at least three days a week
  • Quality sleep for 8 to 12 hours

For Adults Aged 18 to 64

  • 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least
  • Moderate-intensity activities which strengthen bones, muscles, and joints at least twice a week
  • For individuals over 50, include moderate-intensity activities that focus on strength and functional balance at least three days a week

For Elderly Aged Above 65

  • 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least
  • Take part in muscle-strengthening activities two or more times a week
  • Engage in moderate-intensity activities that help with strength and functional balance at least three times a week
  • For adults with chronic conditions, recommendations are still applicable, but consulting a healthcare professional first is a good way to start too

For Pregnant and Postpartum Women

  • Encouraged to engage in least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, if not inhibited by contraindications
  • Incorporate muscle strengthening or gentle stretching activities

For Persons with Disabilities

  • Take part in physical activities everyday (where possible and able)
  • Strength muscles, bones, and joints with activities at least twice a week
  • Try for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week

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The Importance of Aerobic Exercise

If there’s a requirement that consistently pops up for almost every category, it would definitely be aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise is defined as any activity that requires oxygen, and it is better known as “cardio”. Your breathing and heart rate will always increase during aerobic activities.

It includes activities such as brisk walking, swimming, running or cycling.


One of the biggest changes in the Health guidelines is the amount of time spent on aerobic exercise.

In the past, it was recommended for adults to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, with a minimum of 10 minutes per bout.

This has been changed and nearly doubled into a target range of 150 to 300 minutes, with no limits or minimums fitted into each bout, as activities of any duration will still bring benefits.

Secondly, it would be the inclusion and emphasis on different activities that focus on aspects like muscle and bone strengthening, plus exercise that helps with functional balance as we grow older.

Since more studies have been conducted, experts have realised that cardio is not the end-all be-all to fitness, although it’s still necessary in our weekly regime.

Hence, the recommendations have become more “holistic” and “comprehensive”.


The Importance of Staying Active

Why is exercising regularly important, you ask?

Among other things, doing sufficient physical activity can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, or cancer.

Much of the guidelines strive for prevention rather than harm reduction or damage control.

The whole point of these guidelines is to make people more active.

According to the National Population Survey conducted in 2020, 76.4% of Singapore residents between 18 and 74 have sufficient exercise, which is a decrease from 2019 and 2017 where the statistics were 80.1% and 80.9% respectively.


The survey also noted that 33.4% exercised on a regular basis, while 42.9% didn’t exercise at all.

Although nearly half of the population being sedentary is worrying, at least the number of regulars has increased from 29.4% in 2017.

Dr Tan, head of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Sport & Exercise Medicine Care noted that while more people are physically active, the number of people being afflicted with chronic diseases like diabetes is on the rise.

Nearly one in ten (9.5%) have diabetes mellitus between 2019 and 2020, compared to the 8.8% in 2017.

Moreover, he’s helpless to the fact that the sedentary part of the population tends to be rather obstinate and the increase in numbers weren’t as good as they hoped it would be. 


One of the reasons is that due to COVID-19, we haven’t been going out as much, and secondly, we have the proclivity to spend more time behind our screens.

For the sake of our own health, this needs to change.

A Message to the Sedentary

In hopes of changing the habits of the people, the NPB wants people to start with small and achievable steps. They hope that citizens can take their time to build up these good habits so it will follow them through life.

These simple activities like taking walks, climbing the stairs or cycling can easily be incorporated into everyone’s daily lives.

It’s good to take out some time from your work or life to just stroll in the neighbourhood and take in the sights. Use the opportunity as a means of relaxation. 


Be active; the well-being of your body is dependent on your own actions!

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Featured Image: Shutterstock / Nataly Mayak

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