Weekly 150 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities are a major public health goal. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire—short form was applied in 467 students of the 4th year at the Medical University of Vienna and compared with subsamples of data from the Austrian Health Interview Survey, 795 subjects with and 1131 subjects without higher education aged 20–29 years. Median values for weekly total energy expenditure were 3083, 3048, and 3816 MET-minutes (P < 0.001) in medical students, higher and lower educated subjects of the general population. Energy expenditure with vigorous intensity was highest in medical students. A total of 39.4 % of medical students reached the minimum requirements of the national physical activity recommendations. Although medical students are taught those recommendation and are aware of their health benefits, only a minority reach them. If medical students engage in physical activity, they do it with higher intensity than the general population.