Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, added that physical activity brings with it a raft of health benefits.
“As we age, our muscles weaken and we can become stiff, leading to falls and difficulty performing everyday activities. Physical activity can prevent fragility and support mobility in old age,” she said.
“By keeping active, both throughout the day and also through hobbies, we can slow muscle and bone decline, ultimately keeping us independent for longer.”
Adults with or without a disability can experience the same benefits from exercise, the guidelines say, adding that “any myths about physical activity being inherently harmful for disabled people should be dispelled”.
Exercise, including strength training, can also be safely recommended to women during and after pregnancy.
The guidelines add that high intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) – short bursts of very vigorous activity interspersed with rest periods – can be as or more effective than moderate to vigorous exercise, but more research is needed to identify an optimal amount and form to recommend.
Each week, adults should exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes, at a vigorous intensity for 75, or at a very vigorous activity for even less time.
Previous advice that this should be undertaken in bouts of at least 10 minutes, spread out across most days of the week, has been removed.
They now say that people can still enjoy the benefits even if concentrated in one or two weekly sessions.
Huw Edwards, chief executive of not-for-profit health body ukactive, said: “In previous iterations of the chief medical officers’ guidelines, the focus has been on the importance of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, with the importance of muscle strength and activities to promote it playing second fiddle.
“The latest guidelines are more reflective of the evidence and the importance of activities such as resistance training for all adults, reflecting their equal positioning alongside the aerobic activity recommendations. ukactive is proud to support these guidelines and for our research institute to feed into them.”